Blog Post

Carpenter shoots himself in the heart with nail gun—and lives

October 4, 2013

    Hanna Jaquith, Daily Briefing

    It's not a tale for the faint of heart: Eugene Rakow was building a deck for a neighbor when the nail gun kicked back, hit him in the chest, and fired a 3-and-a-half inch spike through his sternum.

    At first, the injury didn't feel "that bad," the 58-year-old carpenter from Minnesota told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But then, "Your body kind of goes into shock. … I could feel it gurgle a little, crunch a little. I knew it wasn't good."

    Rakow phoned his wife of 25 years, who drove him to nearby Waconia Hospital. He was transferred to Abbott Northwestern Hospital, where heart surgeon Louis Louis was amazed by what he saw: The nail had pierced Rakow's heart not once, but twice, coming within two millimeters of a coronary artery. Any closer would have meant death on the spot, Louis said.

    The nail design, however, is likely what saved Rakow's life: "The sternum acted like a two-by-four in that it caught the nail and prevented the nail from going any deeper," Louis told, adding, "Once we were able to get a hold of it, we were able to work it out very carefully and then it was a simple two stitches to repair the injury in the heart."

    Two days later, Rakow was sent home to his wife and seven kids. He will require six weeks off from work to recover from the heart puncture.

    "The surgeon said I ought to buy a lottery ticket, [h]e said you've got to be the luckiest man alive," he later recounted to KARE 11.

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