These incredible x-rays show the ammo jammed in the middle of Ben Smith’s skull after he was accidentally shot at point blank range by his friend.
Engineer Ben, 28, was shooting rabbits when the pal pointed the air rifle at him believing it was empty – and pulled the trigger.
Incredibly, expectant father Ben lived to tell the tale but still has the 2.2 lead bullet in his brain as medics said removing it would be too risky.
After a gruelling nine-month recovery, the dad returned to work in January – but a single knock to the head could dislodge the bullet at any time and leave him brain-damaged.
Now Ben, of Fareham, Hants., is now trying to sue his former friend for loss of earnings – and claims he has only sent one text saying ‘sorry’ since.
He said: “The last year has been a blur. I remember my mate joking around pointing the gun in my face, and the next thing I knew I was in hospital.
“It’s weird knowing there’s still a bullet in my brain – I’m constantly aware of it and in some ways I feel like a ticking time bomb.”
On the day of the shooting last May, Ben – who has a son Harley, three and daughter Alisha, seven – and his friend were ‘shooting blanks’ in a field in Botley, Oxfordshire.
He said: “My mate turned to me and pointed the gun in my face from about two metres away.
“He clearly thought the rifle wasn’t loaded, but he didn’t check – then he pulled the trigger.
“I was in shock and didn’t even feel any pain. The only reason I knew I’d been shot was because I was bleeding from the middle of my head.
“My pal called an ambulance, but then I staggered over to my car, and for some crazy reason decided to drive ten miles home.”
His partner of 11 years, Katie Guy, a catering assistant, said Ben stumbled through the door covered in sick and blood and “looking like something from a horror film”.
She called an ambulance and Ben was blue-lighted to Southampton General Hospital where he was put on a ventilator.
He was discharged after three weeks, but four days later he was readmitted after struggling with memory loss and vomiting.
There, medics discovered that the 2.2 lead bullet was still lodged in his third ventricle – a fluid-filled cavity in his brain – and said he was at risk of brain damage.
Ben said: “I couldn’t believe it when they told me. Apparently moving it is riskier than leaving it there.
“Medics are hoping it will fall further down the ventricle and then they’ll be able to safely operate to remove it.
“But to avoid potential brain-damage in the meantime, I have to avoid roller coasters, contact sports and any situation where I could bang my head – though I can still have sex.”
Since the shooting in May 2015, Ben has suffered with slurred speech, hearing and eyesight problems and memory loss which left him bed-bound for three months.
It also left him unable to work as an engineer for six months.
Ben said he didn’t press charges at the time because he was focused on getting back on his feet, but he now plans to sue for loss of earnings.
He contacted a solicitor in August but the case was dropped in October because his former friend has no assets.
Ben said: “Unbelievably, the pal who shot me never bothered to turn up in hospital to see if I was OK – he just sent me one text that said ‘sorry’.
“We didn’t press charges because I was fighting for my life and my family were too preoccupied with me to even consider seeking legal action.
“He nearly killed me and left my kids without a dad – a text isn’t going to cut it.
“If my pal had been genuinely remorseful I’d feel differently – but sending one lazy text proved he didn’t care he’d nearly killed me.”
In January, Ben returned to work and Katie found out she was pregnant with their third child, due in June.
The couple continue to seek legal advice and Ben has vowed to stay away from air rifles in the future.
Katie said: “It was awful. I had no idea if he’d live or die, all because of his friend’s stupid prank.
“I had to take our kids to see their dad in hospital – it was heart-breaking.
“With our baby on the way, we are more aware than ever that a relapse could leave the kids without a dad – so we will continue to seek legal advice.”
Ben added: “Even in experienced hands, guns are dangerous. I’m lucky to be alive – and still have a bullet in my head to prove it.”