This remarkable story was featured on more than 100 news organizations throughout the world including CNN, BBC, Reuters, Good Morning America, The Today Show and 6ABC/Philadelphia!
“I had done it a thousand times,” said Dennis Hennis, a self-employed construction professional. “The nail gun got jammed and when I turned it to fix it, the gun went off and shot the nail directly into my chest.”
He turned to his son who was working beside him that day as they built a patio roof for a neighbor and said, “Call 911, I don’t think I am going to make it.”
Within minutes the ambulance arrived and transported Mr. Hennis, 52, of Vineland, New Jersey, to the nearest emergency department at South Jersey Regional Hospital where doctors inserted a catheter around the heart to drain the blood. The severity of the injury was apparent and he needed to be transferred to Cooper University Hospital, the only Level 1 Trauma Center serving all of South Jersey.
The fog was thick that afternoon and they would have to transport him by ambulance because the helicopter was unable to fly. While in the ambulance, Mr. Hennis went into cardiac arrest. Emergency personnel performed CPR on Mr. Hennis and turned the ambulance back to the hospital to stabilize him. By the time they got back, the fog had remarkably cleared and Mr. Hennis was then flown by helicopter to Cooper.
“We had the advantage of time in this case because of the transfer so we could assemble our trauma, anesthesia and cardiac surgery team in the specified cardiac operating room equipped with heart/lung bypass capabilities,” said Raymond H. Green, DO, trauma surgeon on service that afternoon. “When he arrived by chopper, we immediately took him into surgery. He had three episodes of cardiac arrests by the time he arrived and we knew this required immediate surgery.”
Through the ordeal, Mr. Hennis had held onto the nail and emergency personnel then secured it in place with tape. “He knew to not remove the nail which could have caused him to bleed out. This was also life saving,” said Michael Rosenbloom, MD, Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
During the surgery, after repairing the hole in Mr. Hennis’ heart, he again went into cardiac arrest. At that point, Dr. Rosenbloom made the decision to place Mr. Hennis on the heart/lung bypass machine. After the two-hour surgery, Mr. Hennis’s heart was now beating strong, his chest was closed and he was heading to the Trauma ICU.
“The interplay of many different and complex factors had to occur exactly the way they did for him to have survived,” said Dr. Rosenbloom
A few days after surgery, Mr. Hennis met his surgeons. (see video below)
“I am so grateful,” said Mr. Hennis. “I don’t know why I survived, but someone has a plan for me.”
Six days after his accident, Mr. Hennis was released from the hospital and was resting at home.
“I had a grandson a few weeks ago, born on my birthday. I look forward to sharing our birthday’s together for years to come,” said Mr. Hennis.
“If one part of this situation were to have fallen a different way, this man would probably not be here. The stars aligned for him, and we are proud to have been a part of it.” remarked Dr. Green.