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Worker on mend from nail in heart

Sat., Dec. 11, 2004

Sitting in the emergency room with a 21/8-inch nail in his chest Thursday morning, Steven Faber got his prognosis.

“I told him that I thought the nail might be in his heart,” said Dr. Mike Jemmette, the Deaconess Medical Center emergency room physician who first examined Faber.

“He said, ‘Sweet. Can I go snowboarding tomorrow?’ “

Faber, 24, who co-owns Green Desert Construction in Moses Lake, was shot with a nail gun while he was putting up siding on a garage in Cheney about 10:30 a.m. Faber said the gun malfunctioned when his business partner, Brent Heroux, handed it to him.

On Friday, without a nail in his body, Faber gave credit to the Deaconess medical team and Heroux for saving his life.

“I really thought I was dying,” Faber said in his hospital room. “It was like my whole life was crashing before my eyes. All I could really think about was my little brother, my girlfriend, my aunt and my business partner.”

After the accident, Heroux called 911 and started driving Faber to the hospital. An ambulance met the two and transported Faber the rest of the way.

The clothes nailed to Faber’s chest (a vest, sweatshirt and two T-shirts) were cut off, and doctors decided on their next move.

“Every time his heart would beat, it (the nail) would move,” Jemmette said. “We knew it was right next to or in his heart.”

X-rays and ultrasound pictures confirmed that it was inside. The nail shot through his chest wall and between two ribs, where it entered the right ventricle.

With Faber stable and alert, doctors’ main concern wasn’t that the nail was inside him, but what would happen when they pulled it out.

“When we saw how deep it was, we thought it should be done in a more controlled environment,” Jemmette said.

Faber was taken to the operating room and put under anesthesia. Doctors inserted a camera outside of his heart to watch, and prepared to open his chest in case the bleeding didn’t stop.

Heart surgeon Dr. Jack Leonard pulled out the nail. (“I didn’t use a claw hammer,” he said.) It only bled a little, and Faber’s chest did not have to be opened.

On Thursday, the only outward sign of injury was a puncture wound that looked more like a small mole.

Jemmette said he often sees nail-gun injuries in the emergency room.

“Nail guns are to be respected,” he said. “I’ve seen nails in everything. I’ve seen nails in people’s butts. I’ve seen nails in people’s heads.”

Faber is expected to make a full recovery and will only need a week or so off from work, doctors said.

“He’ll do well,” Jemmette said. “He’ll just have a good story to tell and can save the nail and make a good necklace.”

Doctors saved the nail for Faber, who plans to display it around his car’s rearview mirror.

Faber has no medical insurance and isn’t sure how he’ll pay the medical bills. But he wasn’t worried about that Friday.

“My Uncle Billy, we just buried a month ago,” said Faber, who was raised by his aunt, uncle and grandmother. “That changed my perspective, I thought. But then I almost buried me.”


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