Six nails are embedded in the skull of construction worker Isidro Mejia shown in this x-ray.
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A construction worker had six nails driven into his head in an accident with a high-powered nail gun, but doctors said Wednesday they expect him to make a full recovery.
Three nails penetrated Isidro Mejia's brain, and one entered his spine below the base of his skull. Doctors said the nails barely missed his brain stem and spinal cord, preventing paralysis or death.
He made his first public appearance Wednesday since the April 19 accident that left him with 3 1/2-inch nails embedded in his face, neck and skull.
He told reporters in Spanish from his wheelchair that he does not remember much about the accident, but is grateful to be alive.
"He says that he's very happy to be alive," said Dr. Rafael Quinonez, a neurosurgeon who removed the nails at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. "And he told me this morning that he thought he was going to die. He was happy when he opened his eyes, and he saw that he's still with us."
Mejia, 39, was atop an unfinished home when he fell from the roof onto a co-worker who was using the nail gun, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Mark Newlands said.
The two men tried to grab each other to keep from falling, but both tumbled to the ground. At some point, the nail gun discharged and drove the nails into Mejia's head.
"They're extremely powerful," Newlands said. "They've got to drive through three-quarter-inch plywood."
Quinonez said Mejia told authorities he remembered a "shock" to the back of his neck and little else before passing out.
"We did not have too much hope that he would survive, but we did it and he survived," Quinonez said, calling the recovery "close to a miracle."
Mejia is walking with minimal assistance and speaks somewhat slowly because his brain's speech center was affected, but his progress has been "remarkable," Quinonez said. With rehabilitation therapy, he should fully recover, he said.
"He is basically normal," Quinonez said.
Five nails were removed the same day and the sixth, in Mejia's face, was removed April 23 after swelling went down, the hospital said.
Authorities cleared the co-worker of any wrongdoing.