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GRAPHIC: Man accidentally shoots nail into his heart

Posted at 3:21 AM, Aug 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-16 03:21:41-04

PESHTIGO, WI (WBAY/CNN) – A man in Wisconsin drove himself to the hospital after he accidentally shot a 3 1/2-inch nail into his own heart.

Doug Bergeson is happy to be healthy and back to work on his farm after a construction accident seven weeks ago left him perilously close to death.

The man was working on a fireplace for a home he’s building when his nail gun went off.

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

A 3 1/2-inch framing nail fired straight into Bergeson’s heart with the speed of a .22-caliber bullet.

"It didn't really hurt. It just felt like it kind of stung me. 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.

With his wife away at church, Bergeson didn’t call 911 because he didn’t want to bother anyone. He instead washed up and hopped in his truck, driving himself the 12 miles to the emergency room.

"It seemed like the thing to do. I felt fine, other than having a little too much iron in my diet,” Bergeson said.

By the time he got to the hospital, Bergeson was starting to hurt.

"I just leaned over to the security guard and said, ‘I've got a nail in my chest. It'd be great if you can find somebody to help me out here. I'm just going to sit down,’" he said.

Bergeson needed open-heart surgery, so hospital staff rushed him to Dr. Alexander Roitstein, a cardiothoracic surgeon at another hospital.

“A wrong heartbeat, a wrong position, and he would have had a much more complicated problem than he was bargaining for. So, he's quite fortunate from that standpoint,” Roitstein said.

The nail missed a main artery in Bergeson’s 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," Roitstein said.

Bergeson has a scar but no permanent damage.

"Must have had somebody watching over me because it was close," he said.

Bergeson says he’s always been careful with his tools, but he’s even more cautious now. He hopes his story will help others recognize the power of nail guns.

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

Copyright 2017 WBAY, Doug Bergeson via CNN. All rights reserved.