A Breckenridge construction worker is recovering after going to the dentist for a toothache that turned out to have been caused by a 4-inch nail lodged in his skull.
Patrick Lawler had a nail in his head for six days and didn't realize it. (Slideshow: See More Amazing X-Ray Images)
Patrick Lawler, 23, said he was using a nail gun on Jan. 6 when it backfired, firing a nail into a nearby piece of wood. And, unbeknownst to him, a second nail went through the roof in his mouth, and into his head -- about an inch and a half into his brain -- barely missing the back of his eye.Lawler said Tuesday morning that he did have some blurred vision but there was no indication of the actual problem, so he didn't do anything about it for nearly a week."We just thought it was a big contusion. You get punched or something, and your eyes swell up, your jaws swell up, whatever ... We didn't think a nail was hanging out, poking where it shouldn't have been," Lawler said.When painkillers and ice didn't ease the pain, he went to a dental office where his wife, Katerina, works. That's when X-rays revealed what actually happened. ()When his dentist confirmed that there was a nail in his skull, he was rushed to Littleton Adventist hospital."It was pretty scary coming in and talking to the doctor about pullling nails out and stuff," Lawler said. "They think it entered into my lip and must have richochet through my mouth."
Lawler holds up the 4-inch nail that had penetrated his brain and barely missed his eye.
It took doctors four hours to remove the nail from Lawler's head."In this case we opened the skull. The nail was in close proximity to where we opened and we could see it clearly, and see where it penetrated inside the brain," said neurologist Dr. Sean Markey. "The area where it penetrated the brain -- we generally think of that (area) as silent so injuries showing up there, are little less likely."Neurosurgeons pushed Lawler's brain aside a bit and pulled the nail out."It extracted pretty easy. We had to do it very slowly. You have to make sure the brain didn't bleed, the eye didn't bleed," said Markey.Doctors will to continue to monitor Lawler but expect a full recovery. Doctors said he will not suffer any long-term effects from the injury. Lawler may be released from the hospital as early as Wednesday.Despite all of trauma of the past week, Lawler said the only thing that really bothers him now is something of a dull headache.Even though he has no medical insurance, is not eligible for worker's compensation, and now has to raise funds to pay for the medical bills -- estimated between $80,000 and $100,000 -- Lawler said he feels extremely lucky and very happy.
He also said that he's no longer going to work in the construction business. Delivering pizzas seem to be a much safer option, he said.Lawler also plans to frame the nail and the X-rays and hang it somewhere in his house -- but he'll avoid the nail gun. This time he'll just use a hammer and a tack instead.Coincidentally, this is the second time Littleton Adventist has seen a person injured by a nail gun who didn't actually realize the nail had been imbedded in their skull.
A fund has been set up to help Lawler with his medical bills. You can send donations to: Patrick Lawler Fund Colo. Business Bank of Littleton 101 W. Mineral Ave. Lttleton, CO 80120