Monday, July 27, 2009

Random Memory: Memorial Day, 2004.

In May of 2004, I got selected to participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Cemetary in Florence, Italy. I knew I was getting out of the Army at the end of the year so I was happy and proud to do it as one of my last big things before rejoining the ranks of the civilian world.

The plan was to leave on Sunday and stay overnight at Camp Darby, which is a small logistical base about an hour away from Florence. We were a big group and there is no lodging on Camp Darby so we had to bring our sleeping bags and sleep in the gym on base Sunday night. The bus arrived sometime in the afternoon and we got our orders from the NCOIC who was in charge if the detail, SFC Stugartt. SFC Stugartt was a no-nonsense kind of guy and told us in no uncertain terms that we were there for the ceremony only, that we had to leave early the next morning, and that nobody was allowed to go off post because that would invariably lead to someone getting drunk and stupid and then getting in trouble. Camp Darby is so small that on the weekends pretty much everything is closed so the only options for dinner were the shoppette or a little snack bar that had burgers and pizzas and such. I grabbed the only thing I could find at the shoppette for dinner - a bag of beef jerky - and stashed it in my sleeping bag before heading out to find something to do. There was a Memorial Day softball tournament going on so I grabbed a bottle of beer at the snack bar and sat on the lawn to watch. Eventually another guy I worked with, SSG Luman joined me as did the legal NCO, SSG Denny. The three of us just chatted for a couple hours until eventually it was evening and I said "Well, nothing else to do around here so might as well hit it." I ate the rest of my beef jerky and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and had to go to the bathroom so I got out of my sleeping bag and stumbled to the bathroom in the men's lockeroom. As I was standing at the urinal, my stomach started feeling really nauseous for some reason. It got worse as I finished my business so I took a few sips from the water fountain. And that's all I remember.

Next thing I knew I woke up again feeling very strange and feeling something cold on my cheek. As my eyes focused, I realized that I was lying face down on the tile floor in the lockeroom. No sooner did I realize this when I felt something warm and wet on my cheek so I tried to sit up and suddenly I saw copious amounts of blood all over the floor. I touched my face and my hand became covered with blood. I struggled to get up and walked over to the mirror and saw that my entire face was covered with blood which was oozing from my left eye. Everything was feeling so surreal, I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. Was I attacked? That was my initial thought but eventually I deduced that I had passed out after drinking from the water fountain. I tried in vain to stop the bleeding with paper towels but the gash was just way too deep. It would require medical attention for sure. I went back to my sleeping bag and called SFC Stugartt on my cell phone. It was somewhere around 2 or 3 am so he was sound asleep. I told him I had just passed out in the bathroom and swore to him that I wasn't drunk. He called the medic we had brought with us and she dressed the wound and put some kind of butterfly stitch or something on it that stopped the bleeding and said that I'd probably have to go to the hospital in Pisa the next morning to get stitches. I went back to bed wondering what the hell had just happened to me.

A few hours later we got up, put on our Class A uniforms and boarded the bus. Since the bleeding had stopped, they decided I would not go to the hospital but because of the amount of blood I had lost SFC Stugartt informed me that I would not participate in the ceremony that morning. The temperature was headed into the 90's and he felt that the combination of my wound and the extreme heat would be dangerous. I was devastated as I really wanted to do it but I understood. At least I was able to see the American Cemetary and get some pictures before the ceremony anyway.

When we got back home I went to see the doctor on base to get checked out. I told him what happened and he knew exactly what it was. When your sleeping, your body temperature is warm. When you get up in the middle of the night, your body heat suddenly drops considerably and the blood rushes to the head and voom, down you go. He said it is very common and that there is even a medical term for it (which I can't remember). He also said it happens most frequently to men when they go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and they often end up with injuries similar to mine as they are usually at the urinal or toilet when it happens and they end up hitting their head when they go down.

I still have scar from the incident. Thank God it's never happened again...

If you look really close, you can see the bandage over my left eye.

1 comment:

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