Man shot in heart by nail gun drives self to hospital

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   Aug. 17, 2017 at 10:45 AM
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Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A Wisconsin man building a house accidentally shot himself in the heart with a nail gun -- and drove himself to the hospital.

Doug Bergeson said he was working on the fireplace for a home he's building near Peshtigo when his nail gun fired off accidentally and shot a 3-1/2 inch framing nail into his heart.

"I was just bringing the nail gun forward and I was on my tip-toes and I just didn't quite have enough room, and it fired before I was really ready for it, and then it dropped down and it fired again," Bergeson told WBAY-TV.

"It didn't really hurt. It just felt like it kind of stung me. And I looked down and I didn't see anything and I put my hand there and... That's not good," Bergeson said. "When I saw it moving with my heart, it's kind of like... I'm not going to get anything done today! I can see that already!"

"So, I drove in to the emergency room," he said. "It seemed like the thing to do! I felt fine, other than having a little too much iron in my diet."

Bergeson said the wound started to hurt by the time he finished his 12-mile drive to the emergency room at Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette.

The hospital quickly transferred Bergeson to BayCare Medical Center, where cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Alexander Roitstein conducted surgery to remove the nail.

"A wrong heart beat, a wrong position and he would have had a much more complicated problem than he was bargaining for," Roitstein said. "And so he's quite fortunate from that standpoint."

Bergeson said doctors told him the nail was about a paper's thickness away from a main artery in his heart.

"He was very astute not to remove it, because he remembered Steve Irwin, and that's what played through his head," Roitstein said.

Roitstein said Bergeson's injury will completely heal, with only a scar to show it ever happened.

Bergeson said he hopes his close call will inspire others working construction to remember that nail guns shoot with the speed of a .22-caliber rifle.

"Accidents, they can happen so quickly, and fortunately this one had a good ending," Bergeson said.

A Chicago man shared a similar cautionary tale last year when he took to the Internet to detail the saga of two nails he accidentally shot into his knee during his second day on a framing job. He shared X-ray photos of the nails embedded in his leg and explained they narrowly missed his femoral artery, which would likely have been a fatal injury.

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