“Twitching with every heartbeat”: Man Shoots Nail into his Heart, Drives Himself to Hospital


Image credit: Associated Press

On June 25, Doug Bergeson was working on framing a fireplace at his Wisconsin home when his nail gun accidentally fired, sending a nail ricocheting off some wood – and into his heart.

Earlier this week, Bergeson spoke to the Associated Press about his ordeal:

“I thought it just nicked me. I looked down. I couldn’t see anything,” Bergeson said in an interview Tuesday. “I felt OK. I wasn’t worried about the injury. I couldn’t feel any pressure or blood building up.”

As he tugged at his sweatshirt, Bergeson, 52, said he realized only about 1 inch of the 3½-inch nail was sticking out of his chest.

“I could see the nail moving with my heartbeat. It was kind of twitching with every heartbeat,” Bergeson said.

A three-and-a-half inch framing nail fired straight into his heart with the speed of a .22 bullet, reports ABC2:

“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 recalls.

“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. 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!”

Bergeson said he was more annoyed than worried, and knew he had to go to the emergency room.

“I was frustrated because I knew I wasn’t going to get home until late and I couldn’t get anything done,” Bergeson said, adding that “common sense” told him not to pull the nail out.

He didn’t want to call an ambulance because he figured that would take another hour by the time it got there and the paramedics checked him out, Bergeson said.

So, he drove himself to Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette, which is about 12 miles from his home.

“Eight miles in it started to hurt quite a bit,” he said.

After being x-rayed, doctors told Bergeson he would need to be transferred to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.

“I offered to drive myself, but they wouldn’t let me,” Bergeson said, chuckling.

Dr. Alexander Roitstein confirmed the nail hit Bergeson’s heart, saying it was also 1/16 of an inch from a major artery. He said it was difficult to assess how deeply the nail penetrated, but the nail left bruising and a nail-sized hole.

“A wrong heart beat, a wrong position and he would have had a much more complicated problem than he was bargaining for,” said Dr. Roitstein, a cardiothoracic surgeon at BayCare Clinic. “And so he’s quite fortunate from that standpoint.”

Doug says the nail missed a main artery in his heart by the thickness of a piece of paper.

“He was very astute not to remove it, because he remembered Steve Irwin, and that’s what played through his head,” says Dr. Roitstein.

According to the CDC, nail guns are responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year – 68% of these involve workers and 32% involve consumers.

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