'It didn't really hurt': Peshtigo man's heart pierced in nail gun accident

PESHTIGO, Wis. (WBAY) - A Peshtigo man who accidentally shot a nail into his heart is sharing his story, and some advice to those in the construction industry.

Doug Bergeson was working on a fireplace for a home he's building near Peshtigo when his nail gun went off and a nail pierced his heart.

Scroll down to see photos of Doug, the nail, and X-rays.

Action 2 News visited Bergeson, who has been spending his days checking over his field of vegetables. He's happy to be healthy and back to work on his farm.

Seven weeks ago, his farming days were perilously close to being over. Bergeson underwent open heart surgery to remove the nail.

"Made my whole family so nervous... and [yelling to his wife, Donna]: I'm sorry about that! But, accidents happen," Doug said.

Doug's wife, Donna, was at church the day of the accident. Doug was working to finish framing up the fireplace on the home.

"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.

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

"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," Bergeson says. "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!"

Instead of calling 911, Doug washed up and hopped in his truck.

Doug Bergeson: "So, I drove in to the emergency room."

Sarah Thomsen: "You drove yourself to the hospital?"

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

He made the 12 mile-drive to Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette. But he was starting to hurt.

"I just leaned over 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," Bergeson recalls.

Doctors started working on Doug, who was busy texting his wife. "At the ER," he texted. That message auto-corrected and Donna Bergeson had no idea what it meant.

When the couple spoke, Doug Bergeson calmly said he was OK, but needed a new shirt.

Donna hurried to the hospital to see her husband.

"And I got the 'What did you do?'

"Just shrugged my shoulders and said oops," Doug says.

Bergeson needed surgery. Hospital staff rushed him to Aurora BayCare Medical Center and Dr. Alexander Roitstein.

"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, cardiothoracic surgeon, 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.

Doug Bergeson has a scar, but no permanent damage.

"It was just something that [claps hands] seals up on its own," Dr. Roitstein says.

Bergeson admits that he had a very close call.

"Must have had somebody watching over me, because it was close," Doug says.

Doug says he's always been careful, but he's even more cautious than before. 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 says.

Doug Bergeson of Peshtigo needed open heart surgery after a nail gun accident.

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