Man who shot nail into his brain thought X-ray was a ‘doctor joke’
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com January 20, 2012 8:42PM
Dante Autullo, 32, of Orland Park, talks about accidentally shooting a nail into his brain during a press conference at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn Friday, January 20, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2012 8:05AM
In a three-day span last week, Dante Autullo went from being a guy building a shed in his garage to an international curiosity.
That can happen when one accidentally shoots a 3 1/2-inch nail into his brain and doesn’t even know it until more than 24 hours later.
As Autullo spoke about his adventure Friday for the first time at a news conference at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, he pondered his good fortune, his newfound “fame” and his future.
“Besides the nail, I’ve had a lot on my mind,” he said from a wheelchair, flanked by his fiancee, Gail Glaenzer.
The Orland Park man was expected to go home this weekend and is expected to make a full recovery. The nail — along with a section of skull — were removed by neurosurgeon Dr. Leslie Schaffer during surgery Thursday.
Autullo, 32, was working in his garage Tuesday morning with a friend, building a wall for a new shed. Autullo had accidentally shot his friend in the hand with the nail gun three days earlier, but the friend suffered only a scratch.
Autullo had just placed a nail when the recoil snapped the nail gun toward the back of his head. A sensor on the gun recognized a flat surface, and Autullo mistakenly and unknowingly fired a nail into his brain.
“I felt like I got punched in the side of the ear,” he said.
He tried looking on the floor for the nail but couldn’t find it. Asked if he thought the nail might have lodged inside his brain, he said, “It crossed my mind, but not in the way I wanted it to.”
Schaffer said a person wouldn’t feel pain in his or her brain because while nerves send messages to the brain that something hurts, the brain itself has no pain sensors.
About 36 hours later, after doing some snow plowing, picking up his children from school and other tasks, Autullo felt nauseous and went to get checked out at Palos Community Hospital.
He got a CAT scan, and the doctor showed him an image of the nail lodged in the back of his brain.
“I said to him, ‘Is this a joke? Did you get this from the doctor joke folder?’ ” Autullo said.
When the doctor told him it was real, Autullo and his family members who were in the room started crying.
“We were all tearing,” he said.
The next day, after Autullo was transferred to Christ Medical Center, Schaffer removed the nail. Luckily, there was no swelling or bleeding, which would have been signs that Autullo could have further problems. That the nail still was firmly lodged in the skull kept it from moving around and destroying brain tissue.
The operation took about two hours, and Shaffer said he expects Autullo to make a full recovery. He said it was an unusual accident but not exceptionally rare among wounds he has treated in 30 years as a neurosurgeon.
“Somebody was watching over him,” Schaffer said. “Somebody much bigger than me.”
“We joke all the time because we have no luck,” Autullo’s fiancee, Gail Glaenzer, said. “If we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. He saved all of his luck for this one time.”
Although Autullo lost a bit of brain matter, Schaffer said he would be fine — no memory problems or loss of motor control.
“He may forget to take out the garbage and walk the dog, but who wouldn’t?” Schaffer said.
Schaffer said Autullo likely will miss work until he gets the staples removed from his head. Autullo owns a construction business, DA Construction, and plows snow in the winter for Barry Landscaping.
Having been cooped up in the hospital, Autullo missed working Friday’s snowstorm and may miss more.
“I got guys in my truck right now making my money,” he said.
But having dodged a bullet — if not a nail — Autullo said he plans to slow down.
“The way I approach things is too fast,” he said. “It could have all been prevented if I had slowed down.”