Second, I would think someone would pass out long and bleed to death before they finished cutting off their own hand.
This has happened in real life. It is definitely possible to cut off your own arm if your life is in peril. A farmer, for example, who got his hand caught in some sort of farm equipment and was being sucked in was able to amputate his arm and save himself.
As for the rod, they probably had to make do with what was available at the location and hope that nobody noticed.