A bell ringer had his jaw smashed and narrowly missed severing an artery in his neck after he was impaled on one of the giant chimes he was cleaning.
Robert Wood, 62, slipped and fell into the 106-year-old mechanism while carrying out maintenance work.
A metal peg penetrated his chin, causing substantial damage to his jaw and just avoiding the major blood vessels in his neck.
Robert was able to stagger down the belfry at Middleham Church, near Wensleydale, North Yorks., where he was found by a colleague.
He was then flown by air ambulance to the major trauma centre at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, Tees.
He underwent a four-hour operation following his freak accident to repair his shattered jaw and spent a total of five days in hospital.
Robert, a retired environmental health officer from Ripon, North Yorks., however has been left with his jaw held together by metal plates.
He said: “I was at the top of the tower, walking across the metal bell frame when I missed my footing and ended up landing chin-first onto a piece of the bell mechanism which had a rusty metal peg on the end.
“I managed to get myself off that and make my way down the ladder. It’s amazing what you can do with adrenaline.
“The land and then air ambulance were there very quickly and I was just so grateful to be flown to hospital within minutes.
“They saved me from what would have been a long and painful journey of over an hour on winding roads.”
Robert Wood said he had been cleaning the bells on July 4 in preparation for campanologists ringing special peels to commemorate bell ringers who were killed during WWI, when he slipped into the mechanism.
Robert added: “I missed my footing and fell face first into the mechanism.
“I had only fallen about three or four feet, but I had hit what was a metal peg on a piece of wood.
“It missed my major blood vessels by about 4mm.
“I wasn’t really conscious of the pain. The adrenaline quickly kicked in and my thinking was very clear.
“I slapped my hand over the injury to reduce the bleeding and I shouted ‘help, help’ down to my colleague.
“I think that instinct just took over. When you get an injury like that the effect of the adrenaline is incredible.
“I could tell I had broken my jaw before I got to hospital because my teeth didn’t line up.
“It was jolly painful but I wasn’t screaming out in agony. They gave me intravenous paracetamol when I got to the air ambulance which took away the pain almost immediately.”
After reaching hospital Robert said he was told be doctors he was very lucky the peg had missed his artery.
He said: “They said I was very lucky it had missed the major blood vessels.
“The main damage was a badly broken jaw and a lot of muck they had to clean up when I went into surgery.
“As you can image the bell had been there for 106 years and had got quite dirty over time.
“It was pretty difficult to explain to them what had actually happened because they had no concept of what I landed on.
“Trying to describe it was very difficult and they kept wanting to know what it was.
“They gasped when they saw what it was.
“I was a bit upset about what happened afterwards and I was in hospital for five days.
“It was traumatic and then it starts to hit you that you’ve had a close shave.”
Robert, who has one daughter, Celia, 32, with his wife retired headteacher Anne, 63, said three weeks after the accident he was back up the bell tower but his full recovery took a little longer.
He said: “I was back bell ringing in about three weeks but it took me about three months to get back to full strength.
“Although it was a localised injury it still left me weak for a while.
“The only effects I have from it now is that I have a numb lip every now and then.
“I’m very lucky there is no major long-term damage.”
Robert now hopes to raise funds to help the Yorkshire Air Ambulance by taking part in a marathon three-hour bell ringing on January 14.
He said: “We are attempting to ring just over 5,000 changes, all different, on the 12 bells at Ripon Cathedral which is quite difficult and I reckon we have about a 75 per cent chance of success.”