Feb. 8, 2005 — -- Talk about a pain in the neck.
Steve Villagomez, a 29-year-old football coach in California, thought he injured his neck during a football practice this past summer and visited a doctor. An X-ray revealed he had what appeared to be a metal object lodged in his neck.
Having no idea how metal would get in his neck, Villagomez thought the diagnosis must be incorrect and ignored it.
"I thought, there's no way," he said Tuesday on "Good Morning America." "I didn't believe the pictures."
Fast forward to October, when Villagomez was telling some of his fellow coaches about the bizarre X-ray. The head coach, whom Villagomez describes as a "real joker," suggested putting a magnet to his neck to test the diagnosis.
Villagomez took the head coach's advice and began experiencing pain in his jaw and neck, so he visited another doctor, who confirmed the original diagnosis. Villagomez had a foreign object lodged in his neck and was referred to Dr. Paul Yun, an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Yun was stunned when he examined Villagomez's X-rays. "I thought it was a joke, some sort of gag," Yun told "Good Morning America." "It was a very strange X-ray."
After convincing Villagomez he should have the object removed, Yun operated and extracted a nearly two-inch-long rusty nail from Villagomez's neck.
Despite the fact that the nail could have been lodged in his neck anywhere from six months to several years, Villagomez had experienced no pain or complications from it, outside of the incident during the summer.
"It looks like it could have been there a few years," said Villagomez. "I just never noticed it."
Yun says Villagomez was extremely lucky the nail was lodged where it was. "It was probably the only place in his neck it could hide without causing any problems," he said.
The most baffling part of the incident is that Villagomez says he has absolutely no idea how the nail got there.
"I have no clue," he said, though he added that he worked at an equipment rental store nearly a decade ago. "The place I used to work used to rent out nail guns, but I never got hit with one."
Yun said there is no way Villagomez could have swallowed the nail and also has no explanation for how it may have gotten in his neck. "I hadn't seen anything like that before," he said.
The story, though mysterious, ends well for Villagomez. The surgery to remove the nail was straightforward -- he is healing and has experienced no complications.
An added bonus is that Villagomez has become a minor celebrity among middle-school students he coaches and his 9-year-old son, who all think the nail is extremely cool.