Dante Autullo thought his doctors were joking, and that he had merely cut himself with a nail gun while building a shed. But they assured him that the X-ray was real: a nail was lodged in the middle of his brain.
Mr Autullo, from Chicago, was recovering on Friday after undergoing surgery at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where doctors removed the 3.75-inch (7.62cm) nail, according to agency reports.
The nail had come within millimeters of the part of the brain that controls motor function.
"When they brought in the picture, I said to the doctor, 'Is this a joke? Did you get that out of the doctors joke file?'" the 32-year-old recalled. "The doctor said, 'No man, that's in your head.'"