(NEW YORK) — Minnesota carpenter Eugene Rakow has a second shot at life after he literally took a shot to the heart.
Rakow, of St. Bonifacius, Minn., is recovering from accidentally shooting a 3.5-inch nail into his chest that came within 2 millimeters of his coronary artery.
The harrowing incident unfolded last Friday while the 58-year-old man was repairing his neighbor’s deck. His nail gun kicked back, firing the spike through his chest and piercing his heart.
“It came down and, boom, right in my chest,” Rakow recounted. “It was hard to catch my breath.”
With the nail in his chest, Rakow’s first instinct was not to call 911. Instead, he ran to his truck and called the first person that came to mind — his wife, Carmen.
“At one point I started to lose it and he said, ‘Get it together,’” Carmen Rakow said. “He said he felt gurgling and felt some crunching in his chest.”
With her own heart sinking, Carmen rushed her husband to the hospital. The nail’s location in his heart is most likely what saved his life, heart surgeon Dr. Louis B. Louis IV of Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis says.
“The nail caught itself on the sternum, just as if the sternum was a 2-by-4. And that really prevented the nail from going in any deeper,” Louis said.
Surgeons were able to remove the nail and sew two stitches directly onto Eugene’s heart to close the wound.
“I told him and his family, you know if I were you, I’d play the lottery tonight,” Louis said.
Eugene knows he’s lucky to be alive but instead of playing the lottery, he says his goal now is to return to his work as a carpenter.
“If it wasn’t for God’s protective hand, I would have been done,” he said.
Eugene returned home on Monday and got to keep the nail as a souvenir.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chris Isidore, CNN
Lisa Respers France, CNN