Man survives a nail in the eye
There must have been a four-leaf clover in those weeds.
A 27-year-old landscaper escaped with barely a scratch after a nearly 3-inch nail hurtled into his eye. He accidentally hit it with a weed-whacker.
Doctors who removed the nail at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital described the case in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"When you looked at him, all you saw was the back end of the nail," said Dr. Wael Asaad. It was in his right eye. Asaad is a neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon is a doctor who specializes in surgery of the brain and nervous system. He now works at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University.
It happened about two years ago. The man wasn't identified.
Doctors couldn't tell how long the nail was or its path. Radiologist Dr. Rajiv Gupta used a new type of CT scanner. It revealed detailed images.
"It reached almost to the tip of the other eye and the brain. It was a very long nail," he said.
The good news? The nail had not penetrated the globe of the eye. It was to one side.
The bad news? It was lodged against one of the main arteries supplying blood to the head. It was also against another artery serving the other eye.
"The tip of the nail was like the finger in the dam. We were worried that if we pulled it out there would be bleeding." A jet of blood could damage the other eye or the brain. It could even prove fatal, Asaad said.
They made an elaborate plan. It was in case an artery ruptured and had to be repaired. One surgeon was ready to operate through the head. A second surgeon was ready to operate through the neck. As these two stood by, a third surgeon carefully pulled out the nail.
They waited several minutes. No major bleeding occurred. They stopped sedating him and the patient was allowed to wake. He was given a tetanus shot and a prescription for five days of preventive antibiotics. Then he was on his way.
A checkup eight weeks later showed his vision had returned to normal. Had the nail struck 1 millimeter away, he likely would have had major damage, doctors said.
As dramatic as it was, "nails penetrating the skull are not as uncommon as you would think," Asaad said. They are usually from nail gun accidents.
Gupta said the lesson is clear.
"Wear eye protection whenever operating heavy machinery. That also includes power tools. They should be worn even when using simple tools for gardening.
Critical thinking challenge: Why was the landscaper injured by a nail instead of some other object?