As It Happens

'I don't like to bother people,' says man who drove himself to the ER with a nail in his heart

Doug Bergeson didn't bother calling 911 after he accidentally shot a nail into his heart while working on his Wisconsin home last month.
A Wisconsin man came perilously close to death after accidentally shooting a nail into his heart while working on his house. (Doug and Donna Bergeson via Associated Press)

Story transcript

Doug Bergeson didn't bother calling 911 after he accidentally shot a nail into his heart while working on his Wisconsin home last month.

"Well, I don't like to bother people if I don't have to, and you know I felt pretty good," Bergeson told As It Happens guest host Mike Finnerty. "I mean, other than the pain from the nail being there."

Bergeson was working on framing in a fireplace at his house when his nail gun accidentally fired, sending a nail ricocheting off some wood and into his chest.

I've got a nail in my chest. I'm just going to sit down here. If you can find somebody to help me out, that would be just fantastic.- Doug Bergeson to a hospital security guard

"I was kind of in an awkward spot and I wasn't quite ready for the nail gun to go off and it fired once where I wanted it and once where I didn't want it to go," he said. 

"When it hit, it felt like it nicked me. I looked down and I didn't see anything, so I took my other hand and pulled my shirt down and put my hand there. It was like, 'Oh, this isn't good at all."

About one inch of a 3 1/2-inch nail was protruding from his chest. He noticed the nail was twitching in time with his heart beat.

"That's when I decided I've got to go to the ER," Bergeson said.

Doug Bergeson lying in a hospital bed at the Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, Wis., before a doctor removed a nail from his heart. (Donna Bergeson/Associated Press)

So he cleaned himself off, hopped into his truck and drove the 15-minute commute to the Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette, Wis.

"I got a three-quarter-tonne truck, so it picks up all the bumps in the road .... and it just kind of aggravated it a little bit," he said. 

"By the time I got about eight miles into it, it's kind of like, yeah, I'm ready to have this taken out," he added with a chuckle. 

When he arrived at the hospital, he said he "found a good parking spot and walked into the ER."

"There was another patient at the reception desk. There was a security guard in there also, so I just leaned over and told him, I said, 'I've got a nail in my chest. I'm just going to sit down here. If you can find somebody to help me out, that would be just fantastic.'"

Medical staff, he said, immediately rushed to his aid. 

A very close call

Still thinking he would soon be on his way home after a little medical attention, Bergeson texted his wife, Donna, to bring him a new shirt because medical staff had cut off the one he was wearing.

But after X-rays were taken, he was rushed by ambulance to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.

"They had to cut my chest open," he said. "I was astounded that they were going to have to do that. I asked the physician, 'Is there a different direction we can go through?'"

The doctors informed that surgery was the only option.

"I said, 'Oh well, do what you gotta do. I'll wait here.'"

Bergeson says he has the nail at home and plans to put it in on his mantlepiece. (Doug Bergeson/Associated Press)

Dr. Alexander Roitstein confirmed to The Associated Press that 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.

He commended Bergeson for not pulling the nail out and letting doctors handle it.

"It shows the great composure this gentleman had after a very bad day's experience," Roitstein said.

Bergeson spent two days in the hospital and has been recovering at home.

He will be able to return to work this week at the Village of Lena waterworks plant, though it'll be about nine months before he's fully recovered. He also has a vegetable farm and a construction business.

"It's kind of put me behind a little bit there and I've got to be careful with what I do now," Bergeson said. "I try to use as much caution as I can when I'm working everywhere. Things happen so quickly."

As for the nail? That's going on the mantlepiece. 

"Tells you I put my heart into that house," he said. 

With files from Associated Press


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