Doug Bergeson was framing a fireplace when his nail gun fired, sending a nail ricocheting off wood and into his chest with the speed of a .22-calibre bullet.
The 52-year-old from Peshtigo, Wisconsin, said he could only see an inch of the 3.5in nail sticking out of his chest and “common sense” told him not to pull it out.
“I could see the nail moving with my heartbeat,” he said. “It was kind of twitching with every heartbeat.
“I was frustrated because I knew I wasn’t going to get home until late and I couldn’t get anything done.”
After driving to a hospital 10 minutes away, Mr Bergeson started to feel more pain and needed the help of a security guard to make it inside.
X-rays showed the nail was a 16th of an inch – about the thickness of a piece of paper – from a majority artery.
Mr Bergeson was rushed to a cardiovascular hospital by ambulance and underwent open-heart surgery.
“A wrong heartbeat, a wrong position, and he would have had a much more complicated problem than he was bargaining for,” Dr Alexander Roitstein said.
“He’s quite fortunate from that standpoint.”
Dr Roitstein added that Mr Bergeson’s decision to leave the nail in place “shows the great composure this gentleman had after a very bad day’s experience”.
Mr Bergeson spent just two days in hospital and has been recovering at home since the accident on 25 June.
He said: “I feel pretty good. I’m back to doing things carefully.
“It was a pretty awakening experience.”
© 2017, Vale of Glamorgan Broadcasting CIC T/A: Bro Radio & Sky News.