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Local man survives after nail gun shoots 3-inch nail into his heart

HOUSTON – Aaron knows a thing or two about construction. In fact, the furniture builder had begun to build a new home for him and his family. 

The project progressed without error, until the morning of Sept. 3, when Aaron picked up his nail gun. 

"I went to do a little framing work and I got the gun out, set everything up. Actually went to nail in some two-by-fours. The hose was caught around it. So, when I moved the gun, it went off." 

The three-inch nail-pierced Aaron's chest, puncturing the outer layer of his heart. A friend who was with Aaron assisting with the construction project called 911. He also called Aaron's wife, Liz. 

"He calls me and says you know if I'm calling it's bad. And I said what happened," Liz said. 

Aaron was still conscious, although fading. 

"First thing I thought was this is not good. Something told me to pull the nail and I've always heard leave it in, leave it in," Aaron said. 

"I reached down, put my hand up and thought I'm gonna die," he continued. 

Aaron figured he could get himself to the nearest EMS facility, near his home in Montgomery County. Medics arrived before he could. Their task: move his 6 feet, 2-inch frame from the truck, to an ambulance. That wasn't easy. 

Capt. Rhonda Ritchey and District Chief Christopher Goodrich, of Montgomery County Hospital District, were who rushed Aaron to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Woodlands. 

The hospital's trauma center was well-equipped for the task of saving Aaron's life. Wife, Liz, knew that firsthand: She works in the trauma department and served as a nurse before moving on to a training position within the department. 

"I knew how severe the injury could be or potentially was," Liz said. 

All Liz could do was wait. Wait for Aaron to arrive at the hospital. Wait for doctors to perform lifesaving surgery. She also had to be a mother. The couple's nine-year-old was home at the time of the accident. Their 15-year-old was at school. 

The nail hit a main artery.  

"It actually got his left anterior descending artery. The main one that supplies the biggest muscle part of the heart," said Dr. Timothy Hodges, trauma medical director, at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands. 

That's why Aaron's decision to pull the nail was right. Had he not, the nail would have caused more damage to the artery," Hodges said. 

Surgery was successful, although the emotional ties between doctor, patient, and his family linger. 

"I know Liz. I know Aaron. She was here when the program started. It's tough," Dr. Hodges said, tearing up. 

These days, Aaron is well. His recovery was successful and he's returned to construction projects. 

As for whether he plans to use the nail gun, “I already have," he said with a laugh. 

Liz didn't know Aaron had reacquainted himself with the nail gun until he made the revelation to reporters. 

She had been holding his hand throughout their conversation. She replied with ease, "More than anything, I'm having to rein him in."