For Aron Ralston, his arm pinned under an 800-pound boulder that he could not move in a remote Utah canyon, the choice was no choice at all.
The mountain climber used a pocketknife to amputate his arm, but first he realized he had to smash the bone, because his knife was not sharp enough to cut through it.
"He actually broke his bone when he realized and decided that he was going to do the amputation," Ralston's mother, Donna, said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
"He actually forced his arm against the boulder and broke the bone so he would be able to cut through the tissue, because he knew from his experiences that the knife he had wasn't sharp enough to actually cut the bone," she said.
Aron Ralston, 27, is an extremely experienced climber who has also had search and rescue training, so he was able to think clearly in a situation in which many people might have panicked, his parents said.
"He said within the first hour he had identified he basically had four alternatives: someone would come along the trail, he would be able to chip away at the rock and free his hand, he would be able to rig up something with the ropes and equipment he had to move the rock. If all else failed, he said he knew he would need to sever the arm," Larry Ralston said.
Once he made the decision of what he had to do, he put his first aid training to good use.
"He had a long time to think about it and he … had some idea of what to do and how to apply the tourniquet correctly, and actually, he lost very little blood," Larry Ralston said. "The doctor indicated that he did not even have a blood transfusion during the transport or at all. So, he was lucky in that respect."
After breaking his own bone and then sawing through his arm, Aron Ralston rapelled down from the position where he had been trapped and hiked five miles before two tourists found him on Thursday.
His hand was recovered from under the boulder on Sunday, but doctors determined that it was too badly damaged to be reattached.
Doctors said Aron Ralston was in fair condition following an operation on Monday to prepare his right arm for a prosthetic device. It took two surgeons at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., only one hour to shorten the bones in the forearm about one inch, and pull muscle and skin over the end to close the wound.
"The doctor was very pleased with the way the wound came together and he's in a cast which is pretty big," Donna Ralston said. "We think that will be a few weeks but he'll be fitted for a prosthetic soon and Aron is looking forward to continuing his life in the outdoors."
Ralston is expected to be released from the hospital later this week.
The boulder did not fall from above on Ralston's arm, but came dislodged as he was climbing down it and crushed his limb, the climber's father said.
"It was a rock in a narrow slot canyon, the walls are very close together," Larry Ralston said. "There was a large boulder on top. Aron indicated to us that he had actually walked and stood on top of that rock, it seemed very stable.
"When he started to lower himself over the side of it, the rock was so perfectly balanced it tilted, swiveled over and ended up coming down towards him on top. He just was not able to get his hand out of the way," he said.
Ralston's parents admitted that when they first heard what their son had done, they were as shocked and horrified as anyone, but then as they considered the situation he was in it made more sense.
"My reaction when I found out he had cut his arm, it was like, oh, my God," Donna Ralston said. "But the more I thought about it, the more rational a decision I realized that was."
Even with their son safely in a hospital bed and doctors confident of his recovery, Donna Ralston said there have still been some anxious moments, even if only in retrospect.
"The scariest comment I've heard was last night when Aron commented that he was to the point of starting to leave directions on how his friends and family should scatter his ashes," she said.
Now his parents say Aron Ralston admits he should have told someone where he was going, but they say he will continue to climb alone.
ABCNEWS' Bill Redeker in Junction City, Colo., contributed to this report.