Pasta Machine Crushes 22 Bones in Chef's Hand in 'Excruciating' Accident

The owner of a Milwaukee pizza restaurant who nearly lost her hand in a pasta machine accident last year has returned to work.

Chef Suzzette Metcalfe, who has owned Pasta Tree since 2007, was cleaning the machine when her hand became caught in the two rollers of the pasta maker.

Metcalfe called for help, but her hostess was in the front of the house and failed to hear her cries, OnMilwaukee reported.

"It all happened so fast," Metcalfe told the publication. "The machine has a pedal safety brake that I stepped on to stop it, but I couldn't open the rollers to get my hand out."

With her phone out of reach, Metcalfe had to slide the table it was sat upon towards her with her foot. Doing this, the chef was finally able to dial the emergency services and her waitress.

She had already suffered 22 fractures in her right hand, putting her out of commission from May 28, when the accident occurred, until now.

"The pain was excruciating. Somehow I remembered to ask her to call all the reservations for the evening. I knew we wouldn't be having dinner service," Metcalfe explains.

Even when emergency services arrived, Metcalfe's ordeal wasn't over. Initially, OnMilwaukee reported, EMTs were unsure of how to actually extract the chef from the rollers of the pasta maker.

Metcalfe explained that her concerns at the time were not just for her hand. She told OnMilwaukee: "They were pumping me full of fentanyl for the pain, and I was freaking out about the pasta machine. It has been in here for 60 years. It belonged to the mother of one of the previous owners, Robert Fontecchio. It is the heart of the restaurant."

Following 45 minutes of attempts to free Metcalfe, spurred by the fact she was losing circulation in her fingers, the decision was made to use a Sawzall to cut through the machine. The process used 12 new blades to cut through the rollers.

Once free, Metcalfe was transported by ambulance to Froedtert Hospital, renowned for its hand surgery team.

When she was finally freed the chef described her fingers as appearing like "sausages that were boiled too long and burst open."

As she waited to be seen by hand specialists at Froedtert Hospital, she began to fear that she would lose her hand, she told OnMilwaukee. Fortunately, doctors informed her she would not lose her hand or fingers, but did face a hard recovery period.

According to Restaurant Kitchen Safety 101, the majority of accidents that occur in professional kitchens are cuts and lacerations, slips, trips and falls, sprains and soft tissue damage, and burns and scalds. This doesn't mean that accidents involving pasta makers are uncommon, however.

In 2017, The New York Post reported that Philadelphia-based chef Joe Cicala's hand was crushed by a pasta sheeter after he accidentally placed his fingers too close to the machine's rolling apparatus.

And accidents involving pasta makers can happen outside restaurant settings too.

Just a few months prior to Metcalfe's accident, on March 22, a South Windsor, Connecticut man suffered severe injuries when his arm was caught in a pasta making machine at a pasta production factory.

The 32-year-old Middlefield man was trapped in the machine up to his elbow from 3:30 am to 6 am when a team of 30 firefighters was finally able to free him. The man was transported to Hartford Hospital via the Life Star helicopter with severe injuries.

"He had significant injuries to his right arm, right forearm. Some facial injuries and some upper chest injuries," Sgt. Mark Cleverdon of South Windsor Police Department, told News 8 at the time of the incident.

Metcalfe's accident hasn't put the chef off the restaurant business, however, after a long road to recovery and physical therapy, she will be reopening Pasta Tree on November 10.

She will, however, be handing the main kitchen duties over to staff and taking a more managerial role as the restaurant's owner.

"Almost losing my hand reinforced how much I love my restaurant. I missed cooking and my clientele and my employees and being a part of the community," Metcalfe concluded. "I can't wait to get back to normal, whatever normal is now."

Bandaged Hand
A stock image of a woman's hand being bandaged. A restaurant owner in Milwaukee has returned to work after a pasta making machine severely crushed her hand. Artfully79/Getty