Annals of Improbable Events (Repeat Performance Dept.)

A dentist found the source of the toothache Patrick Lawler was complaining about on the roof of his mouth: a four-inch nail the construction worker had unknowingly embedded in his skull six days earlier.


I have two questions about this.

First, how in the world can you jam a four inch nail up your head and not know? (Amazingly, this is not a unique case: “This is the second one we've seen in this hospital where the person was injured by the nail gun and didn't actually realize the nail had been imbedded in their skull,” the neurosurgeon said. That's two cases in one hospital alone. Imagine how many there could be nationally. Imagine the revised disclaimer the lawyers will be making the nail gun people but into their users manuals…)

Second, what did they say in the hospital when they developed the x-ray? Did they assume something went wrong with the x-ray machine and do a second one?

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9 Responses to Annals of Improbable Events (Repeat Performance Dept.)

  1. Bill K says:

    In what way are you operating the nail gun? I mean, did the guy have his finger on the trigger and his mouth on the end?

  2. Paul Gowder says:

    Not only that… it looks like there are actual TEETH there. Like, on the path the nail must’ve gone through to get into his head at that angle (although it’s hard to be completely sure in 2d). Are you sure this isn’t a hoax?

  3. Barsk says:

    It’s not a hoax at all.

    The guy is a married 23 year old carpenter in Breckenridge, CO. He was working a job when his nail gun backfired and shot a nail out. It turns out it shot out too nails, one the right way and the other in a different direction (note that some nail guns have a ‘clip’ that holds the nails so I’m guessing that is the kind he was using as it would make the most sense). The nail shot through the roof of his mouth, narrowly missing his eye and plunged 1.5 inches (about) into his brain.

    It took four hours to get the nail out. The guy is fine but has no insurance and it cost $80-100k to perform the neurosurgery. It’s funny because his tooth hurt but when you see pictures of him in the hospital his eye is clearly swollen a bit (looks like he has an eye infection). Amazing though.

  4. Dave Spence says:

    While it does seem a bit unrealistic to shoot a nail into your face and not know about it, it’s not any more unrealistic than a Soldier in Iraq getting shot point blank in the face, with the bullet impacting and ejecting old #8. He didn’t even know he was shot and never broke stride. Plus he took out the bad guy that shot him too.

  5. Evelyn Blaine says:

    Two words, familiar to all who’ve browsed through the annals of medical weirdness: Phineas Gage.

  6. Seth Gordon says:

    There are no pain-sensing nerves on the brain itself. When frontal lobotomies were in fashion, this fact was very convenient.

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  8. Glenn Bowen says:

    1) for legal reasons, the manufacturers no longer refer to them as “guns”, they call them “nailers”, “staplers”, etc., from an incident involving a death some years ago, although they are known in the trade as “guns” by contractors and distributers.


    2) as to the man not being aware of it, many years ago my brother was stabbed in the side with a four-inch knife, and was not aware of the wound until someone noticed, hours later, blood on the back of his shirt when he took off his coat.

  9. nigel says:

    it looks from the pic that the nail had to go through either the bottom of his mouth or he had his mouth open in some strange way to get it in there at that angle.


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