MUSCMedical LinksCharleston LinksArchivesMedical EducatorSpeakers BureauSeminars and EventsResearch StudiesResearch GrantsCatalyst PDF FileCommunity HappeningsCampus News

Return to Main Menu

Did he hit the nail on the head? Not exactly

by Heather Murphy
Public Relations
Call Jarred Howard’s case pure dumb luck or call it successful expertise, but whatever you call it, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

Howard, 18, rose on a weekday morning like he always does, ready to head to the job. A partner with his father in Kerry Howard and Son construction company, Howard stood six feet off the ground demonstrating to a novice worker how to nail a porch roof together.

“We had walk boards around the perimeter of the porch rack. I moved to place my foot on the next walk board, and the next thing I know, I’m starting to fall. I guess I misplaced my foot.”

Howard’s foot was not the only thing misplaced.

Somehow on the way down, Howard’s finger hooked on the trigger of his nail gun, attached to an air compressor (about 110 psi), in his hand.

The entry wound on Howard's cheek looks so innocent, people may find it hard to believe a three-inch nail passed through it. 

“It happened so fast and I actually landed on my feet. I felt something hit my cheek and started to ask everyone if I had shot a nail into my face,” he said. “Everyone kept telling me they couldn’t see anything. I figured that at some point during the fall, I’d knocked myself in the face with the end of the gun.”

Then Howard went home.

And, as usual, he went to work the next day.

“I guess I’m pretty hard-headed because I didn’t take the next day off. But I got a splitting headache and everyone convinced me to go over to the hospital, just to get checked out and make sure everything was all right,” Howard said.

Howard found out at St. Francis Hospital in West Ashley that everything was not all right. In fact, X-rays showed a three-inch nail lodged two inches deep into Howard’s brain. Howard’s doctors suggested he go to MUSC.

“People get foreign bodies all the time,” said Rod Schlosser, M.D., Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. “But I’ve never seen, and probably will never see again, something like Jarred’s case.”

Because the nail entered Howard’s head via his sinuses, Schlosser headed up the surgical team.

“The nail had to come out at the exact angle of trajectory that it had come in,” Schlosser said. “If we didn’t pull the nail back through his sinuses, extensive damage would have been done to the surrounding structures along its path.” 

An X-ray of Howard's head shows the exact location of the nail as it lay lodged in his brain, as well as  his tongue piercing.

Speaking of surrounding structures, the nail barely missed his pituitary gland and injured a small portion of his optic nerve on the way in, resulting in loss of a small area of his peripheral vision.

“Given the fact that this person had a nail lodged two inches into his brain and could go to work the next day was pretty miraculous,” Schlosser said. “He was able to avoid major neurosurgery. But we couldn’t have helped Jarred without the neurosurgery team on stand-by.”

Steve Haines, M.D., and Steve Takacs, M.D., were the neurosurgeons who consulted with Schlosser on Howard’s case.

Schlosser and his team removed the nail and even more miraculous were the surgery results. Howard suffered no additional vision loss but still experiences some minor sinus discomfort. He considers himself extremely lucky.

“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Howard said. “I thank God that this was all that happened to me. I’m extremely grateful to my doctors at MUSC.

“My mom was pretty incredible too, she did so much for me and is just all around wonderful,” he said.

“When you think about what could’ve resulted from this incident, like permanent vision loss, destruction of major blood vessels, a stroke, or meningitis, Jarred’s recovery is pretty spectacular,” Schlosser said.

Jarred should suffer no long-term sequella, except a small scar on his cheek and his minor vision loss.

“After they removed the nail, Dr. Schlosser asked me if I wanted to keep it and I told him that I had plenty of nails at work,” Howard said.

Schlosser handed it over to Howard’s mom. Who knows, maybe Howard will want it when he tells his grandchildren the story of how he ended up with a nail in his brain.and do not have to be a program member to attend the talk. 

Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to or To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Community Press at 849-1778.