updated 1/19/2005 2:21:28 PM ET 2005-01-19T19:21:28

A construction worker who shot himself in the head with a nail gun — an accident he didn’t discover until he went to the dentist with a nagging toothache — said he’ll change his line of work.

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“I’ll make pizzas,” Patrick Lawler, 23, said Tuesday.

Lawler, who may be released from the hospital as early as Wednesday, was working on a house near Breckenridge when he accidentally fired the nail into his head. He said it felt like he had been hit with a steel baseball bat.

Lawler didn’t realize the gun had fired a 4-inch nail through his mouth and 1½ inches into his brain until six days later, when he went to a dental office complaining of a toothache that just wouldn’t go away.

An X-ray revealed the nail, and surgeons removed it last week.

“The nail could have been millimeters to one side and it would have severed an optic nerve, leaving him blind,” said Dr. Sean Markey, who operated on Lawler. “He’s unbelievably lucky.”

Lawler said he doesn’t know how he’ll pay medical bills estimated to reach $100,000. He’s uninsured.

“I was self-employed on the job,” he said. “I would have had to carry my own health insurance. But I didn’t think I’d shoot myself with a nail, you know?”

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