Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Accidents Do Happen

This is not a public message on road safety. These are stories from my hospital and about cases that I have worked on and each time I carry the pager, in real life, mishaps like these do occur.

I remember that during a fateful Hari Raya holiday not too long ago, Mr C and Mrs C, a couple in their early twenties, were travelling back to Teluk Intan in their trusty old car. Mr C is a local Chinese man who was working in the big city while Mrs C is a young Chinese-Indonesian and she was heavily-pregnant, due to deliver at any time. They have another boy who is 2 year-old but he was already back in Teluk Intan. As traffic was heavy and it was rainy, the road condition was hazardous and without knowing, disaster strikes. Their car skidded and knocked into a tree. The couple was rushed to our hospital.

Initially, Mr C was fine but felt a bit of tummy pain. His vital signs were stable, he regained consciousness and could talk. On the other hand, his wife was unconscious and injured part of her abdomen. Her BP was crashing and we even find it difficult to obtain veins for fluid resuscitation. A big team of doctors was helping Mrs C while Mr C was observed in the casualty. After a while, Mrs C was pushed into the operating theatre with the grim news of possible fetal death due to abruptio placenta and needed immediate Caesarean section. There were some injuries to her other organs but she was stable throughout the operation.

She was admitted to ICU, intubated and heavily sedated. Her newborn baby was already dead upon delivery. One floor below her, Mr C was discharged from casualty, still with abdominal pain but he was able to walk. He made it to ICU and slowly hobbled in to visit his heavily-sedated wife who is still unconscious. That was the last time that he saw her.

The very next day, we heard news that Mr C collapsed at home and died while his family members were rushing him to the hospital. As Mrs C was still intubated, we could only wait for her to recover before we could do anything while Mr C went six feet under. Mrs C slept on peacefully for a few days, not knowing that she lost both her newborn child and her husband on a single day.

After a while, she recovered and we told her the most devastating news that anyone could receive. Death became so real..it was almost palpable. I will always remember the look on her pretty, young face as a more senior doctor told her about her husband gently and with as much grace as possible. After that brief glimpse, I couldn't look her in the eyes as I felt my eyes water and my cheeks were wet were tears as well. I reminded myself that this vocation is not for the faint-hearted or weak-willed as I quietly write down our findings in her notes and left her bedside. I told myself to be grateful that I am given this opportunity to touch lives at the most crucial crossroads of someone's life and also to be careful on the road, especially since I drive long-distance regularly. I tell myself that I should spend more time with my loved ones, not to neglect the most important things in life.

Then last week, another big accident occurred..this time on the road I frequently travel to go back to TI. En M, his wife and 6 other children were sitting in a Proton car and collided with a lorry. The lorry driver, Mr M and another son died on the spot. One of his son reached the hospital in a critical condition and we rushed him to the theatre. The other children and his wife were observed as they had some injuries but nothing life-threatening.

The child that was in the theatre had massive liver injuries as we saw that his liver had almost splitted into half. Despite our best efforts and subsequent further care at Hospital Ipoh, the patient passed away. In short, this accident took 4 lives.

In our line of duty, we faced many accident victims daily. Those working in the casualty department know that sometimes trauma happens without any reason sometimes. Yet, a big percentage of the accidents occur when the driver has been speeding or under the influence of alcohol. At times, danger comes because of slippery road, bad weather or vehicle malfunction. I don't believe in blaming anyone or anything but reducing the risks really play a major role in motor-vehicle accidents.

I have lost count of the number of admissions to my ward for cerebral concussion in young boys or girls below the age of 18 yr old, riding their motorcycle without helmets, thinking that their skull is the helmet. So for those of you out there who refuse to wear your helmets while on the bike or buckle your seatbelts or drink while heavily-intoxicated, please remember that the ward is a very uncomfortable, hot place, the food sucks and blood-taking hurts!

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