Isidro Mejia made his first public appearance Wednesday since the April 19 accident that left him with nails embedded in his face, neck and skull. He told reporters in Spanish from his wheelchair that he does not remember much about the accident, but is grateful to be alive.
"He says that he's very happy to be alive," said Dr. Rafael Quinonez, a neurosurgeon who removed the nails at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. "And he told me this morning that he thought he was going to die. He was happy when he opened his eyes, and he saw that he's still with us."
Mejia, 39, was building a home when he fell from the roof onto a co-worker who was using the nail gun on the second floor, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Mark Newlands said.
The two men tried to grab each to keep from falling, but both tumbled to the ground. At some point, the nail gun discharged and drove the nails into Mejia's head.
"They're extremely powerful," Newlands said. "They've got to drive through three-quarter-inch (two centimeter) plywood."
Three nails penetrated Mejia's brain, and one entered his spine below the base of his skull. Doctors said the nails barely missed his brain stem and spinal cord, preventing paralysis or death.
"We did not have too much hope that he would survive, but we did it and he survived," Quinonez said.
Five nails were removed the same day and the sixth, in Mejia's face, was removed April 23 after swelling went down, the hospital said.
Doctors expect him to fully recover after undergoing rehabilitation therapy.
Authorities cleared the co-worker of any wrongdoing.