News anchors called him the epitome of Iron Man, adding that he’s the kind of guy you want in a high-pressure situation. Around the world, he became known as the calmest man to ever have a nail pierce his chest.
The following story gives an in-depth look into what really happened that day and how this man’s actions were the determining factor in his survival. Whether he lived or died depended on what he did next in this highly-stressful situation. His story made headlines thanks to his humor and calm demeanor.
A House Work Accident
As Doug Bergeson worked on adding a frame to the fireplace at his house near Peshtigo, in northeast Wisconsin, his nail gun accidentally fired. This sent a nail ricocheting off some nearby wood and into his chest. “I thought it nicked me,” Bergeson recalled in an interview. “I looked down. I couldn’t see anything.”
“I was kind of in an awkward spot,” he said. “And I wasn’t quite ready for the nail gun to go off and it fired … where I didn’t want it to go.” But, being that he felt fine and wasn’t worried about the injury, Bergeson remained calm.
“I Have a Nail in My Chest”
“I couldn’t feel any pressure or blood building up.” But as he tugged at his sweatshirt, he realized only about 1 inch of the 3 ½ 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,” he said.
No Need to Call 911
Being that Bergeson was more annoyed than worried, he knew he had to go to the emergency room. But he didn’t bother calling 911 to take him because he didn’t want to bother anyone. “Well, I don’t like to bother people if I don’t have to, and you know I felt pretty good,” Bergeson told CBC’s Mike Finnerty.
Driving Himself to the Hospital
So he washed up, hopped in his truck and made his way to Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette. “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,” Bergeson said. But after driving about eight miles, he knew he needed the nail taken out.
Time is of the Essence
It took him 15 minutes to get to the hospital and once he did, he found a “good parking spot.” After parking his truck, Bergeson walked into the ER and noticed there was another patient at the reception desk, so he leaned over the security guard and said …
A Calm Demeanor
“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.” It was arguably the most level-headed conversation that ever existed between a man with a nail in his chest and hospital security.
Texting His Wife
After disclosing what was going on, the medical staff immediately rushed to his aid. While doctors started working on Bergeson, he was busy texting his wife who happened to be at church that day. “At the we,” he texted — the message auto-corrected “ER” to “we” and his wife Donna had no idea what it meant.
Once the couple spoke, Bergeson calmly told his wife that he was fine. Figuring he would be on his way home soon after a little medical attention, he asked her to bring him a new shirt. Naturally, the medical staff had to cut off the one he was wearing in order to tend to the nail in his chest.
Rushing to Her Husband’s Side
Mrs. Bergeson arrived at the hospital and asked her husband, “What did you do?” To which he shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Oops.” After taking X-rays, it was determined that Bergeson needed surgery.
Hospital staff rushed him by ambulance to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. He offered to drive himself, but emergency personnel wouldn’t let him. Dr. Alexander Roitstein, a cardiothoracic surgeon, said that the nail was 1/16 of an inch from a major artery.
It Could Have Ended Terribly
“It was also difficult to access how deeply the nail penetrated, although the nail did leave bruising and a nail-sized hole,” said Roitstein. “A wrong heartbeat, a wrong position and he would have had a much more complicated problem than he was bargaining for.”
“A Close Call”
“He’s quite fortunate from that standpoint,” Roitstein said after confirming the nail did hit Bergeson’s heart. The nail had just missed the main artery in his heart by the thickness of a piece of paper. “It was a very close call.”
After spending two days in the hospital, Doug left with some bruising, a scar, and an appreciation for the power of nail guns. “Accidents, they happen so quickly, and fortunately this one had a good ending,” he said. Luckily he did not suffer any permanent damage.
Doug would return to work after a week at the Village of Lena waterworks plant. He also has a vegetable farm and a construction business. “I feel pretty good. I’m back to doing things carefully,” he said, adding that “It was a pretty awakening experience.”
After the ordeal, Roitstein commended Bergeson for not removing the nail. “He was very astute not to remove it because he remembered Steve Irwin, and that’s what played through his head,” says Roitstein. Many may remember Steve Irwin …
Irwin, more popularly known as the “Crocodile Hunter,” died in 2006 after a stingray stung him. Initial reports claimed that he died from a loss of blood because he pulled the barb out of his chest. Those reports were later refuted, but it’s generally believed that certain puncture wounds should be left alone until examined by a medical professional.
When our bodies are injured, our instincts and fears may motivate us to get rid of the impaled object as quickly as possible. However, removing an object that is stuck, whether in your chest, heart, hand, leg, eye or other body part, can be the deciding factor in what happens to you.
Acting as a Plug
In very extreme cases, pulling an impaled object out of your body can lead to a loss of blood and even death. If you think of a sharp object, such as a knife, going into the body in one smooth motion, it will likely create a wound internally similar to the size of a knife. But it also acts as a cork or plug, fitting into the wound.
Advice for Others
If it is pulled out, any blood vessels that are cut will no longer have the knife pressing against them, allowing them to bleed freely. “Any object penetrating into the flesh should be left in place if at all possible,” according to Staten Island Live. “Objects that are not very sharp or have barbs or jagged edges can do more damage on the way out. They should be left in place.”
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