Doug Bergeson, a 52-year-old Wisconsin farmer and construction worker, is back to business as usual after coming perilously close—about 1/16th of an inch, to be exact—to dying from a nail gun injury to his heart earlier this year.
A nail to the chest
On June 25, Bergeson was using a nail gun to install a fireplace at a home he was building for his family. Part of the project entailed firing the gun while it was facing his body—with just a piece of wood in between, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, this "might have been OK"—if the gun hadn't double-fired, shooting out two nails in a rapid succession. The second nail went into Bergeson's chest.
At first, Bergeson didn't feel anything. "I thought it just nicked me," Bergeson said. "I felt OK. I wasn't worried about the injury. I couldn't feel any pressure or blood building up."
But when he pulled on his sweatshirt, he realized that part of the nail was lodged in his chest. "I could see the nail moving with my heartbeat," Bergeson said. "It was kind of twitching with every heartbeat."
At that point, he decided it was time to go to the hospital. Bergeson calmly drove himself about 12 miles to Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette. "It seemed like the thing to do," he said. "I felt fine, other than having a little too much iron in my diet."
Bergeson left the nail where it was, noting that "common sense" told him not to remove it.
Less than an inch from death
By the time Bergeson arrived at the hospital, the wound was becoming more painful, so he asked a security guard for help, telling the guard, "If you could find someone, that would be great; I'm just going to sit down."
Clinicians ordered X-rays, which showed Bergeson needed surgery. He was rushed in an ambulance to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. But it wasn't until after surgery that Bergeson realized how close he'd come to losing his life, the Post reports.
According to Alexander Roitstein, a doctor at BayCare, the nail was just 1/16 of an inch from a major artery. Bergeson recalled that Roitstein told him, "'I don't know if you know how lucky you are. The thickness of a sheet of paper was how close you came to having minutes left.'"
In addition, Roitstein praised Bergeson for not attempting to remove the nail himself. "It shows the great composure this gentleman had after a very bad day's experience," Roitstein said.
Bergeson spent two days in the hospital for the incident before returning home, the Associated Press reports. According to ABC News, the accident left him with a scar but no permanent heart damage. Weeks following the incident, Bergeson said he "feel[s] pretty good. … I'm back to doing things carefully" (Thomsen, 2BAY, 8/14; Schiffer, "Morning Mix," Washington Post, 8/16; Ehlke, AP/Chicago Tribune, 8/16; Canova, ABC News, 8/15).
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