Shot Through The Heart
In The Tell-Tale Heart, author Edgar Allen Poe outlines a story of madness and death. An old man was described by an acquaintance as having “the eye of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it.” For that reason alone, the unstable associate decides to kill him. In his madness, he spends a week being kind to the old man while stalking his waking and sleeping hours. On his eighth midnight visit, the dreadful eye is perceived by the light of the lantern, as well as the beating of the old man’s heart. In the depths of his insanity, the murderer believes he hears the heart beat quicker and louder, loud enough to wake the neighbors. In a sudden panic, he pulls the old man to the floor and suffocates him with the bed. He then carefully and completely disposes of the old man’s body beneath the floorboards of the bedroom. Upon completion of this task, however, he is visited by three police officers who heard the old man’s final shriek when pulled from his bed. The murderer bids the police enter and places chairs for all, including one for himself directly over the corpse of his victim. As the conversation progresses, the madman starts to hear a ticking like a clock, although in his shattered mindthis evolves into the beating of the victim’s heart. The story comes to an end when the murder shouts his confession, sure that not just he but everyone in the room can hear the tell-tale beating of the old man’s heart.
On June 25, 2017 there was a different type of heart story. Doug Bergeson was working on framing a fireplace in his new house near Peshtigo, Wisconsin using a nail gun. Nail guns are powerful devices, firing off metal projectiles at speeds of about 90 mph. To complete his project, Doug had to reach up, stand on his tiptoes andwrap his left arm around and behind the wooden frame, in such a way that the gun would be facing his body when he pulled the trigger with only a piece of wood in-between. While in thisawkward position, Doug’s nail gun accidentally double-fired, sending a nail ricocheting off some wood and into his chest(W29.4XXA, Contact with nail gun, initial encounter; and Y92.018, Other place in single-family house as the place of occurrence of the external cause).
Initially, he thought he had just been nicked with the nail, but as he looked closer Doug realized that only 1 inch of a 3 ½ inch nail was sticking out of his chest. Not only was the other 2 ½ inches of the nail embedded in his chest, he saw that that the nail was moving with each beat of his heart.
Doug couldn’t feel any pressure or blood building up, and was actually more annoyed that he wasn’t going to finish his home improvement project that worried. Common sense told him not to pull out the nail, so he washed up and decided to drive himself to the emergency room twelve miles away. He didn’t call an ambulance because it could take up to an hour to get him to the hospital, although he admitted that the wound started to hurt about eight miles from his house. After parking his truck and walking into the ER, he realized he felt significantly more pain. He asked a security guard for assistance, texted his wife to bring him a new shirt (medical staff cut the one he was wearing off) and figured he would be home as soon as the doctor removed the nail.
But after x-rays were obtained, Doug was whisked off to Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, where a heart surgeon was on site. He did, of course, offer to drive himself there, but medical staff did not approve of that plan. A surgeon there confirmed that the nail had hit Doug’s heart, stating that it stopped only 1/16 of an inch from a major artery (code S26.12XA, Laceration of heart without hemopericardium, initial encounter). After surgery to remove the nail and spending only two days in the hospital, Doug finished his recovery at home with localized bruising and a nail-sized hole.
It wasn’t until he was in the recovery room that he found out how close he had come to death. During an interview with ABC, Bergeson said that the incident made his whole family very nervous, for which he apologized. He also said he has been more conscious of where he points the nail gun since the accident. While Doug approached his very bad day with composure and humor, as NPR commented: “If he was aiming for DIY mishap fame, Doug Bergeson really nailed it.”