Man survives after shooting himself in the heart with a nail gun - KMSP-TV

St. Boni man survives after shooting himself in the heart with a nail gun

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ST. BONIFACIUS, Minn. (KMSP) -

A St. Bonifacius, Minn. man is recovering at home after accidentally shooting himself in the heart with a nail gun on Friday.

Eugene Rakow, 58, is a self-employed, uninsured carpenter and was building a deck for a neighbor when a 3 1/2-inch nail came within 2 millimeters of a coronary artery.

Rakow was treated at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis and just a few days later, he was back home with his wife and seven kids.

"At first you're disbelief -- did I really do that? And then you're, well, this is going to be serious, I gotta get in and get it taken care of right away," Rakow said.

Dr. Louis Louis, a heart surgeon at Abbott Northwestern, said the nail went through Rakow's heart not once, but twice.

"As soon as it hit me, I knew I was in trouble, and I thought man I gotta get some place and get help, fast," Rakow said.

Rakow's first instinct was not to call 911, but all wife of 25 years Carmen Rakow could think about as she drove him to the hospital was if she was nice to him that morning.

"That's what you think about, is this could be last time I'd ever be with him. I did ask him if he was going to die and you said no, didn't you?" Carmen Rakow said.

Louis had dealt with plenty of gunshot and stab wounds but Rakow's injury was unprecedented. The nail design, however, helped save his life.

"The sternum acted like a 2x4 in that it caught the nail and prevented the nail from going any deeper," Louis said. If it had hit that coronary artery just 2 millimeters further, Rakow likely would have died right on the spot.

"Once we were able to get a hold of it, we were able to work it out very carefully and then it was a simple two stitches to repair the injury in the heart," Louis said.

Though he's back home, Rakow's recovery means no heavy lifting for months, but friends have come forward to help finish the deck.

"The good lord wanted me to stick around for a little longer," Rakow said.

A benefit account for the Rakow family has been set up at KleinBank locations.

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