The Red Badge of Stupidity

After the stitches, before changing out of bloody clothes: Feeling disgusted with myself.

After the stitches, before changing out of bloody clothes: Feeling disgusted with myself.

I’m spending a second day at home today, partly because I don’t feel 100 percent, but more than that because I can’t wash my hair and don’t want to go out in public looking grubby.

Wednesday night, I arrived home all eager to change into my workout clothes and get on the elliptical trainer and watch the “West Wing.” I remember going into the bedroom and starting to change, then having people around me making a fuss.

Apparently, my wife and daughter heard this huge “THUNK” and came running. They found me with my pants around my ankles (fortunately, I had not brought any strippers home with me; that really would have been awkward), sitting dazed on the floor with blood running down my face. A puddle of it was forming on the hardwood floor.

As we wouldn’t discover until going to bed that night, my head had hit the bedpost hard enough to knock it loose from the rest of the bed frame, as you can see in the picture below.

Anyway, Mamanem gathered me up and took me to the urgent care, where I got five or six stitches to close the gash over my left eye.

The pain wasn’t bad. Mostly, I just felt like an idiot. I kept saying, “I’m sorry.” My wife kept saying, “Why do you keep saying that?” Well, because it was just all so undignified, and I was causing a fuss.

Aside from the head thing, I apparently wrenched my neck a bit — that hurts more than the wound — jammed both thumbs trying to catch myself, and banged my elbow.

Yesterday, I watched Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter receiving the Medal of Honor from the president (a worthy ceremony that helped eclipse the memory of a less-well-advised celebration a couple of weeks back). I saw the more obvious scars resulting from his heroism. Real wounds, horrific wounds, most honorably received.

And it made me feel even studiper for tripping on my pants and causing other people trouble…

The damaged bed -- from those marks on the floor, I must have moved the whole thing a bit.

The damaged bed — from those marks on the floor, I must have moved the whole thing a bit.

41 thoughts on “The Red Badge of Stupidity

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Dry shampoo helps. Or just rub some cornstarch on your roots, let it set a spell and brush it out.

  1. Bart


    If it helps, I can send you one of my many “Red Badges of Stupidity”. Believe me, I have plenty to spare.
    Hope you feel better soon and be sure to have a very good orthopedic specialist check your neck. My daughter is a prime example of what can happen later when a neck injury, no matter how minor it may seem to be, is not diagnosed and treated properly immediately.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Dang. I must have typed that on the iPad.

        OK, I looked up “concussion,” and maybe I had a mild one, since I don’t remember the incident, and don’t remember much about the visit to the urgent care. And I’m told that during the period I don’t recall, I was slurring my words, and saying things that didn’t make logical or grammatical sense. (OK, before I get the sarcastic remarks — it might be normal for me so say things that are illogical, but NOT things that are ungrammatical.)

        But I was pretty alert by the time I got home. I recall my wife saying I was no longer slurring my words…

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          And did the docs have any idea why you hit your head? Fainting spell?
          You don’t think consulting your real doctor is a good idea?

    1. bud

      Robert, why don’t you do a cartoon on this incident.

      I’m with the others on taking this seriously. The concussions issue is big in the NFL for a reason, people are having serious issues later in life. Not that this rises to that level but still better safe than sorry.

      1. Pat

        Somehow, I’m thinking more of a stroke than a concussion. Brad, I hope you are doing okay, but I agree about getting checked out.

        1. scout

          It’s true. A TIA could cause that sort of thing – loss of consciousness, slurred speech. (transient ischemic attack – a blodclot that blocks flow to a part of the brain temporarily but then moves on and bloodflow is restored before damage is done – if you are having TIAs you are at greater risk to have a full blown stroke.)

          But it sounds like you are in communication with your doctor and that is good. Monitoring yourself is good. If you experience any one sided weakness, vision issues, slurred speech, etc. please follow up.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Sorry to hear about that. Be careful!

    Probably a good thing that you give blood so regularly. I hear that giving blood helps people when they have a blood loss in a trauma event, because their body is used to having to replenish blood.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    When you have something happen to your head, you keep observing yourself for symptoms. The last couple of days, I’ve had trouble concentrating. I’ll call up something on my computer, realize I need an address or something, ALT+TAB over to another window to get it, then realize an hour later that I never finished doing that thing. I keep starting to write a comment, or starting to send someone an email, or whatever, and forgetting about it.

    But then, I do stuff like that all the time. I may be doing it a little more than usual, but it’s distracting being at home…

    There’s just no way to tell… It’s like I haven’t had enough coffee today, but I know I have. Stupid…

      1. Bart

        And the rescue squad especially if you combine some of the Republican ideas in your thoughts.

  4. scout

    I agree with Kathryn. Maybe you should check with your regular doc too, just to be safe. You might not have tripped on your pants. Hope you feel better soon. We all have accidents that make us feel stupid. Its just being human. I fell off a bike and broke my elbow really bad – felt really stupid too. Now I have a titanium radial head. 🙁

      1. scout

        Yea, it’s the end of the radius – forearm bone – where it connects in the elbow. I snapped it off. Not good. Not good at all.

  5. Norm Ivey

    Hope you feel better. Perhaps a Thurberesque short story is to follow? The Night Father Fell on The Bed

    1. Silence

      I suppose that the high-water mark of my adulthood in Columbia, South Carolina, was the night Brad fell on the bed. It makes a better recitation (unless, as some friends of mine have said, one has heard it five or six times) than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to throw furniture around, shake doors, and bark like a dog, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is admittedly a somewhat incredible tale. Still, it did take place.

      It happened, then, that Brad had decided to work out in the spare bedroom one night, to be away where he could ride the elliptical trainer. Mrs. Warthen opposed the notion strongly because, she said, the old wooden bed up there was unsafe- it was in the way and Brad’s head would crash down on heavy headboard head in case the Brad fell, and kill him. There was no dissuading him, however, and at a quarter past eight he closed the bedroom door behind him and began to take off his pants. We later heard ominous creakings as he mounted the elliptical trainer. Grandfather, who usually slept in the spare bedroom when he was with us, had disappeared some days before. (On these occasions he was usually gone six or seven days and returned growling and out of temper, with the news that the federal Union was run by a passel of blockheads and that the Army of the Potomac didn’t have any more chance than a fiddler’s bitch.)

  6. Rose

    I agree with Kathryn and Scout. Definitely follow up with your doctor. Feel better soon!

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    A few years back I stumbled and fell on the Riverwalk. I hit my head and right hand on the edge of the pavement. I did not pass out, but had visual and auditory issues and nausea. They took me to the ER, where the docs grilled me a lot on why I fell, and whether I was sure I hadn’t blacked out. They took an MRI. This was right after Natasha Richardson died, to be sure, but still….

    Please get your regular doc to check you out. If you passed out, it would be good to know why and prevent future events, like when you are driving.

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    Kathryn, Scout and Rose:

    True, I can’t guarantee that I tripped and didn’t pass out, since I have no memory of anything past going in the bedroom and starting to change. But I have a second piece of evidence to support the supposition: I jammed both of my thumbs rather badly, apparently in an effort to catch myself. I have lot of bruising around the base of each thumb.

    As for speaking with my regular doctor: I spoke with my internist on the phone on Thursday. He said I sounded OK, but to call him on his cell if anything changes — say, if I develop any of the warning symptoms on the sheet that they gave me at the Urgent Care. (The only listed symptom that I had was “stiff neck” — and in my case that was a muscular soreness that bugged me yesterday but is gone now.)

    Yes, he said we COULD do some sort of scan… but he obviously wasn’t recommending it. And I wasn’t asking for it. Aside from the cost that I would have to pay myself with my high-deductible insurance (you know, on account of our not having single-payer and all), the idea of having to lie still with my sore head and neck in one of those machines for half an hour was unappealing. And, common sense told me, unnecessary.

    After I saw the damage I had done to our heavy, sturdy bed, I was rather startled that I didn’t crack my skull or otherwise do greater damage than I did. I’m guessing I caught a good bit of the force with my hands — hence the jammed, sore, bruised thumbs.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and I went to the urgent care yesterday so they could look at my stitches. The nurse said they looked great. I asked whether I could change the bloody bandage, and she said I could toss it, to let the air get to the wound.

      When I got home, my wife did NOT think it “looked great.” And true, I do look a bit like Frankenstein’s monster. Maybe I should go back and have them add some bolts to my neck.

      There are seven stitches, I discovered when the bandage came off…

        1. Norm Ivey

          With a little luck, it will leave a visible scar which you can embellish with something a little more awe-inducing than “I tripped”. I have one in the tip of my eyebrow that is the result of running into a wall when I was startled awake from a nap on the sofa by my then 3- and 4-year-olds playing in the next room “screaming” as their stuffed playthings tumbled off the end of the table. I used to tell my students that it was caused by a beaker that shattered while I wasn’t wearing my safety glasses.

          Glad you’re feeling better.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          When my grandson is a bit older, maybe I’ll tell him I got it during my school days in Heidelberg.

          Or I’ll speak of Agincourt (children think their grandparents were around at the dawn of time):

          He that shall live this day, and see old age,
          Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
          And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
          Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
          And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’…
          This story shall the good man teach his son;
          And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
          From this day to the ending of the world,
          But we in it shall be remember’d;
          We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
          For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
          Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
          This day shall gentle his condition:
          And gentlemen in England now a-bed
          Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
          And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
          That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

          Actually, I have a much better one on my belly — five or six inches. Exploratory surgery for what ended up being a bad appendix.

          With that one, I’ll just say something like, “Bayonet”…

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      If you haven’t had a checkup in a bit, you might consider it. A scan might not tell you much, but jammed thumbs doesn’t discount fainting and trying to right yourself. Fainting can be a result of cardiac issues, blood sugar, etc.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, I saw my internist last week — for a six-month followup on my annual physical. He did a blood test and saw my creatinine levels were a bit elevated. So I’m supposed to go back and get it taken again. I plan to go next week — not to be seen, just for the blood test.

        1. Rose

          Good, and make sure he keeps close watch on those creatinine levels. We are all too familiar with them because my father had to have a kidney transplant (live donor, God bless her).

  9. Dave Crockett

    I earned my red badge of stupidity on New Year’s Day 2008.

    Stepping off my roof onto a step ladder, the next thing I remember was my wife leaning over my laid out body asking “Are you OK, honey?” I didn’t have any memory of the trip down and no lasting physical damage (though I just missed hitting my head on a steel fireplace grate sitting on the deck). The only permanent reminder was this picture of the ladder. It is now a trellis for a climbing rose down in my back yard.

    My wife also doesn’t let me go up on the roof anymore without her holding the ladder….

  10. Brad Warthen

    Wish me luck! Having gotten the last stitches taken out, I’m about to go upstairs and work out for the first time since the incident.

    I’ve passed the first hurdle — I’ve managed to change into my workout clothes without suffering a concussion…

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