“Very lucky” is how one doctor describes Dennis Hennis of Vineland, NJ who shot himself in the heart with a nail gun.
Hennis was doing repair work on a roof when the safety feature on his nail gun jammed. When he tried to unjam it, he pointed the gun in the wrong direction, shooting a three-and-a-half inch nail into his chest.
The nail went into the right side of his heart. Part of the nail was sticking out of his chest.
Hennis says it wasn’t pain so much that he felt at first, rather it was shock at what had happened.
He waited with his son for paramedics to arrive. The paramedics’ first choice was to fly Hennis 50 miles to a hospital where a team of trauma surgeons was waiting. However, fog prevented them from doing that, so they started to drive the 50-mile distance.
When the fog began to lift, they drove him back to a local hospital so he could be airlifted to where the trauma surgeons were located. On the way back to board the helicopter, Hennis went into cardiac arrested, but doctors at the local hospital were able to stabilize him.
Hennis was airlifted to the hospital where the trauma unit is located but went into cardiac arrest again just as he was met by a team of surgeons on the hospital’s roof.
The doctors had to perform CPR which saved his life but caused the hole in his heart to become bigger.
Surgery to repair his heart took two hours. They had to stop his heart for 40 minutes during the procedure.
It took three days for Hennis to fully regain consciousness after the surgery.
Despite all this, Hennis is expected to make a full recovery. He says he plans to return to his job as a builder.
Hennis says he feels like “the luckiest man on earth right now.”
You can see video of an interview with Hennis here.
For an OSHA publication on nail gun safety, click here.