USA Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive show news, updates, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
USA Insider 9-1-1

'9-1-1' Episode 'Pinned' Shows What To Do If You're Shot With A Nail Gun

A father impales himself in the heart with a nail gun in a "9-1-1" moment that depicts something surprisingly common in real life.

By Tyler McCarthy
Jennifer Love Hewitt Consoling A Woman

The “9-1-1” episode “Pinned” proved just how easy it is for even the most cautious people to have a near-fatal mishap when working with a nail gun. 

The episode focuses heavily on Chimney (Kenneth Choi) and Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) solidifying their relationship as well as the Grant family coming to terms with Michael's (Rockmond Dunbar) brain tumor diagnosis. However, in the midst of all that, the episode tells the story of a father building a wall inside his adult daughter’s new home to help break up the open concept design — which she hates. 

The two bond over the project and the father lets her have a hand in it by working the nail gun. Before he hands her the power tool, he forces her to put on goggles and gloves, noting he promised her mother they’d be extra careful. He also scolds her for pointing the gun at him for a brief second. 

“Just like a real gun, you never point it at anything you don’t intend to shoot,” he says. 

To their credit, it looks like they’re doing everything right when she fires her first nail. Unfortunately, when she goes to fire a second nail into a wood beam, the gun jams. As the dad works to fix it, he immediately forgets his own advice and points it at his chest. A nail discharges, piercing him directly in the heart. 

Although not identical, the case mirrors something that happened to Doug Bergeson of Wisconsin in 2017. While using a nail gun to install a fireplace for his family, he was forced to use a nailgun at an awkward angle. He too took safety precautions, but was the victim of a malfunction, according to "The Washington Post."

The gun double-fired, sending one nail into the spot it was intended for but driving the other into his heart. Bergeson said he didn’t feel any pain at first but knew enough not to pull the nail out. He quickly got in his truck and drove himself to the hospital. One life-saving surgery later and he was informed by his doctor that he was an insanely lucky man; the nail stopped just short of making contact with a major artery. The thickness of a sheet of paper was all that stood between him and certain death. One wrong move on his drive and Bergeson's safety story would be significantly more tragic.

While nail gun accidents to the heart are somewhat rare, the startling truth is nail gun accidents, in general, are quite common. The tool is the leading cause of injury among residential carpenters and makes up 37,000 emergency room visits per year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

What should you do if you find yourself the victim of a nail gun incident? There’s really not a lot to it. Don’t pull the nail out yourself and seek professional medical attention immediately. Even though most nail gun injuries are to extremities, there’s no telling what kind of damage can be done by just yanking the nail out of your body. There’s also something to be said for the way a doctor will clean the wound to prevent serious infection. 

On “9-1-1,” the father’s last words before collapsing are to tell his daughter to call an ambulance. Thanks to that quick thinking, he was surrounded by paramedics when he started to code. In the real-life case of Bergeson, immediate medical attention saved his life as well. 

However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes the best way to combat a nail gun injury is to simply never let it happen in the first place. That’s why it published a handy guide to help contractors avoid accidents by outlining proper care, technique, and safety guidelines for those using a nail gun. 

A good rule of thumb to start out with, though, is to never, ever (ever, ever, ever) point it at yourself… Ever.

Read more about: