Stewart Gunn wants you to know about sleepwalking.When he sleepwalked out of a two-story dormitory window in Oxford, England, Gunn, a sophomore history major, was left with broken bones and a lot of free time.
After the accident abroad, Gunn did more than just recover; he began writing a book to warn people about the dangers of sleepwalking.
Gunn said had he known all of the factors that lead to sleepwalking beforehand, the accident may have been prevented. This, he said, is why he and his mother, Dr. Shelly Gunn, began writing a manuscript for a book.
There isn’t one book about sleepwalking for the general public, Shelly Gunn said.
Stewart and Shelly Gunn began work with Dana Press, a division of the Dana Foundation, that publishes books about the brain for the general reader, he said.
Stewart Gunn said that Dana Press asked for a scientific article first.
Throughout his six-month recovery at home, he co-wrote an article about sleepwalking with his mother, he said.
The article, “Are We in the Dark About Sleepwalking’s Dangers?,” was published in May in Cerebrum , a journal of opinion about brain science, as one of the first of its kind.
Stewart and Shelly Gunn are waiting to determine how much interest is generated by the article before moving forward with publication of a book, Stewart Gunn said.
He said writing the article was meant to inform the public about the dangers of sleepwalking and to prevent an accident like his from happening again.
After staying awake for more than 35 hours, Stewart Gunn and his brother, Robert Gunn, fell asleep in their rooms at St. John’s College at Oxford around midnight July 3, 2005, he said.
He woke up hours later lying facedown on the cobblestone in a dark alley with no memory of how he got there, he said.
He said he tasted blood in his mouth and noticed his hands were red but felt no pain – until he moved.
“My back just exploded,” he said.
He said he yelled for help with no avail.
“The pain in my back and hands told me I wasn’t going to be healthy for a very long time,” he said.
Robert Gunn, whose room was within earshot of the alley, said he’s normally a light sleeper and felt bad when he didn’t hear his brother’s cries.
Knowing he couldn’t lie in an alley all night, Stewart Gunn said he crawled to a nearby wall and attempted to stand up.
He said the pain was so unbearable that he bit the cobblestone wall hoping it would subside.
The pain only got worse and his bones sounded like “rocks scraping together,” he said.
He said he stumbled to a nearby road and stood there waiting for help, which came in the form of a police car.
“I didn’t know then that walking in my condition was the absolute worst thing I could do,” he said. “Had a bone penetrated near my spinal cord, my walking motion would have turned it into a knife as it slowly cut the cord.”
Multiple tests at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford confirmed that he wasn’t paralyzed; however, he had broken five lumbar vertebrae, his wrist and hand.
Robert Gunn said he was informed of the accident early the next morning.
Michael Leslie, dean of Rhodes College’s British studies at Oxford summer school, declined to comment.
Stewart Gunn was put in a body cast and stayed in England for two weeks with his brother, who continued the study abroad program, and their parents who flew in.
He flew home to San Antonio and had to lie on his back for almost six months with minimal movement, he said.
Robert Gunn said he retraced the steps of his brother’s accident over and over again. They came to the conclusion that Stewart Gunn sleepwalked out of a window and began walking on the scaffolding around the building then fell backward. A green metal sign broke his fall and his back.
Both Gunn boys had both sleepwalked before with no injury, Robert Gunn said.
Robert Gunn said people need to become more educated about the dangers of sleepwalking.
The accident wasn’t the first of its kind and won’t be the last, Shelly Gunn said.
Stewart Gunn is now back at TCU for his third semester since the accident. His bones have healed and he is back to playing intramural basketball and hunting, he said.
He said, “What is horrible about sleep walking is that you are only in control after a fully functioning body does something stupid, and you are left to pick up the pieces.