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Worker Survives Shooting Himself With Nail Gun

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A typical day on the job turned into a nightmare for a construction worker who accidentally shot himself in the head with a nail gun. It went nearly all the way into Jeff Luptak's head.

He wholeheartedly believed what would be in store for him moments later.

"I was gonna die in that basement is what I felt like," he said Friday from his hospital bed in St. Paul.

He was building a home in Bismarck, North Dakota, last Wednesday. His partner lowered the nail gun to him in the basement. Luptak hit the trigger, and he believes the safety button was unlocked.

"And I reached up and turned, and it shot down, straight down, missing the ball of my cap by a quarter-inch," he said.

The nail lodged in his head, nearly the entire thing, almost three inches.

"All I could think about was my wife and kids.  What they were going to do," he said.

His construction partnered called 911, and Luptak called his wife.

"He started crying, and said, 'Kim. I got shot in the head with a nail gun,'" she said.

She met him at a local hospital. Luptak was then flown to the National Brain Aneurism Center at St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul.

"This is an extremely delicate situation," Dr. Eric Nussbaum, a nationally known vascular surgeon, said while pointing to Luptak's X-rays and scans.

The nail went through his scalp, through the skull and directly into his brain.

"One can see the nail coming down through the largest and most important vein carrying all the blood flow," Dr. Nussbaum said.

By keeping the nail inside, Luptak kept the blood inside his brain and helped save his own life.

Dr. Nussbaum and another surgeon carefully removed the nail during surgery and also repaired the damaged vein in two spots.

"He's one lucky fellow and somebody's looking out for him," said Dr. Nussbaum.

That nail pierced the area of Luptak's brain that affects motor function on the opposite leg, his left leg, so he will have some weakness in that leg.  Dr. Nussbaum said he expects Luptak will make a complete or near complete recovery.

"Yea, I'm very lucky," said Luptak, surrounded by his family in the hospital. "Lucky to be alive."

He's got a lot of time to think about the accident that changed his life, and why he believes he survived that frightful February day.

"God puts you on the Earth to do something, and apparently, I haven't done it yet," he said.  "So I'm still here."


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