May 26, 2011 — -- A freak accident with a high pressure air hose left Steven McCormack painfully puffed up like the Michelin Man, but now safely back to normal he is enjoying an inflated reputation.
McCormack, a small town truck driver in Opotiki, New Zealand, ended up Saturday in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Whakatane, blown up to twice his normal size.
McCormack, 48, was standing on the rigging between his truck and trailer at Waiotahi Contractors when he slipped and fell onto a brass valve that was connecting the truck's brakes to the compressed air supply. The nozzle pierced his left buttock and air rushed into his body at 100 pounds per square inch.
"In a matter of minutes, my body blew to twice its size," McCormack told New Zealand's 3News.
His boss, Robbie Petersen, witnessed the accident and told ABCNews.com, "His body started to literally blow up and before we knew it, his face went up like a balloon."
Petersen's son Spike Petersen is the manager of the company and was also on hand at the time of the accident. Spike was on the phone with 111, the New Zealand equivalent of 911. He told ABCNews.com that their small town only has two ambulances and both were busy at the time of the accident. The nearest rescue helicopter based two hours away was also busy.
"We knew we needed help quick," said Spike. "The pain was unreal. Lifting him up and off the nozzle was the worse."
As the air pumped and McCormack began to scream, co-workers struggled to pull him off of the nozzle. In a life-saving move, they managed to stop the air supply and put him on his side. As McCormack struggled to breathe, co-workers tried to keep him calm by putting ice packs around his neck. It was an hour before paramedics arrived.
"I was blowing up like a football," McCormack told 3News. "I had no choice but just to lie there, blowing up like a balloon."
When paramedics tried to insert a needle for a morphine drip, the pressure from the air inside McCormack pushed the needle out. "It was like putting a needle into a piece of rock," said Petersen. They were also unable to give him air through a tube in his nostrils.
Doctors said the air filled his abdomen and chest, as well as the space around his heart, lungs, and even behind his eyelids. The air separated his fat from his muscles and compressed his heart.
Being stabbed in the buttocks was crucial to his survival. "It's lucky it didn't hit an artery or else he would have bled to death," said Spike.
After being rushed to the hospital, a team of five doctors put a hose through his ribs to get air to his lungs. Though doctors were able to get fluid out of him, the air had to come out the natural way, resulting in an enormous case of flatulence. It took McCormack three days to go back to his normal size and he was released from the hospital on Wednesday to continue recovering at home.
McCormack's mother Tui McCormack, 78, tells ABCNews.com that her son is "completely recovered," adding with relief, "He's good as gold. He's back to new again."
McCormack suffered no broken bones and no bruises, just a hole from where he was punctured. Leaving the hospital, he said, "I really feel like the Michelin Man."
McCormack is expected to return to work in two weeks.
In the meantime, his "mates" back at work are brainstorming nicknames for their friend. "There's quite a bit of flack flying around," laughs McCormack's boss Petersen, "They'll give him some grief all right."