Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Machete-attack victim recounts horrific ordeal

Man hopes to regain use of severed hand

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A man whose hand was severed by a machete-swinging assailant said in his first interview yesterday he feared the attacker would also take his head.

"The blade was so sharp, and it was moving like a whip it was so flexible," Mohammed Hosseinzadeh said yesterday from his bed at St. Boniface General Hospital.

"He was trying to cut my head off. One hand was hanging, the other was cut off. I was helpless," Hosseinzadeh, 47, said.

A 36-year-old neighbour has been charged with attempted murder, but is undergoing psychiatric treatment to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Hosseinzadeh's ordeal started earlier this month when he went to confront a tenant who had woken him up by repeatedly banging the wall between their suites at 170 Hendon Avenue in Charleswood. Although he had problems in the past with the tenant, he never expected violence.

"I just wanted to tell him to keep it down. It was early Sunday morning and I wanted to go back to bed," he said.

"Unfortunately, I didn't know I was going to find what, to me, was a monster."

Hosseinzadeh said he knocked on the door, as he had done before only to have the man tell him to "go to hell."

"But the door opened right away, and I saw the big black blade of the machete coming down towards my head," he said, noting the man is much taller than him.

"I grabbed the blade with my palm, but he pulled it right out of my hand and it came out like nothing. He cut me, and I grabbed it with my hand again, but he pulled it out again."

Hosseinzadeh said the man -- who had shaved his head and was wearing army fatigues -- then aimed at his left hand.

"He hit my hand and it fell off right there, like a cucumber had been sliced. The blood started pouring out and that's when I thought this was serious," he said.

Hosseinzadeh said the man seemed intent on beheading him as he repeatedly took swings at his neck, which he deflected with his hands and arms. His right hand was hanging by a thread, and he believed his head was next to go.

"He kept trying to spin me around, but I was trying not to turn my back to him," he said.

In a move that likely saved his life, Hosseinzadeh used a brief distraction to turn and run, leaving his severed limb behind in a pool of blood and running inside a neighbouring suite.

He felt a final blow strike his shoulder, just missing the spot where several others had left a deep wound in his neck and head.

"I remember running for the elevator, but it wasn't open. I ran to another side of the building. The blood was pouring out, and I was yelling for help. A woman in the block was crying... she got me a towel, and I was yelling for her to go check on my girlfriend," said Hosseinzadeh.

"Then I asked for my hand. I said, 'Please bring back my hand. It's on the other side of the building.' "

Hosseinzadeh said shock began to set in once he discovered the damage to his upper body.

"I just wanted to go to sleep. I was shaking and cold and sleepy," he said.

Hosseinzadeh credits a Winnipeg ambulance attendant for giving him the will to live.

"The paramedic came, and I remember looking at his eyes, and he said, 'My name is Andrew, but you can call me Andy.' And he told me, 'Hang on buddy, just hang on.'

"I was thinking, this was a stranger, and he wanted me to stay alive, so why shouldn't I."

Doctors performed surgery on Hosseinzadeh and were able to reattach his left hand. Although he has no feeling or movement, doctors are hopeful he will one day regain use of his hand.

"They are optimistic the sensations will return," he said.

Hosseinzadeh is slowly regaining sensations in his right hand, where several tendons and nerves were cut. He also bears some ugly scars on his neck and head which are permanent reminders of the horror.

Hosseinzadeh lost nearly 70 per cent of his red blood cells, which left doctors surprised he survived.

He is waiting for a bed to open at the Health Sciences Centre rehabilitative centre, where he expects to remain for some time.

He is on a heavy dose of morphine and Tylenol 3s.

"It's too painful to manage without," he said.

"But the staff here have been so good, from the doctors to the nurses."

Hosseinzadeh said he is "channelling" his anger into more positive thoughts.

He came to Canada about 15 years ago as a sponsored refugee. He has worked several jobs in Winnipeg since, most recently at the International Centre.

"Friends I came to Canada with from Iran say that in Islamic law, what you do to someone is punishable by the same thing. My friends are saying they wished that law existed here, too," he said.

"But I don't. I told them, that's why we escaped; we don't want a system like that. We all escaped from that kind of situation."

Hosseinzadeh believes police and Manitoba Housing officials could have done more, noting he called police three different times on the man for similar disturbance complaints.

He also told housing officials he feared the tenant had psychological problems, but was told to put his concerns in writing.

He said there were several unusual incidents before the machete attack -- including Satanic symbols being placed on his door and others, and water dumped under several residents' doors.

"That block used to be very nice and quiet. We never had a problem then," said Hosseinzadeh, who moved in seven years ago.

"But the last couple of years, younger people started moving in, some with mental problems. But I didn't really pay attention, figuring everyone has a right to live."

When police arrested the man, they found an incoherent note in his suite. His Legal Aid lawyer has been unable to have a conversation with his client and says he is not fit to instruct counsel at this time.

Former friends of the man describe him as a "survivalist" and drifter with a history of strange behaviour.

During his long road to recovery, Hosseinzadeh has been inspired by the recent story of the American hiker who cut off his own arm to free himself from certain death after being crushed by rocks while alone in the mountains.

"I really admired him. He is someone who wanted to live," he said.

"I also see myself as a strong person who survived. If I was weak, I could have just laid down."

Hosseinzadeh also hopes he can be a positive influence to others by sending a strong message about his ordeal.

"I want to enjoy life. Maybe I lose my hand, but I'm still alive," he said.

"I hope everyone appreciates the good health and life they have. Life is not that bad."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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