A needless waste of lives
ABU DHABI // One was a top student about to embark on a military career, another a talented footballer about to join the UAE national team. A third, a promising artist.
The parents of the three young Emirati men severely injured in car crashes caused by speeding or reckless driving said their children’s lives had been irreversibly damaged – they are paralysed or reliant on ventilator support for life.
Medical experts said they hoped these stories would serve as cautionary tales.
Ali Al Hashemi, executive director of Amana Healthcare, said he was grateful that patients involved in traffic accidents and their families were willing to share stories of their tragic experiences.
Amana Healthcare, a hospital that provides long-term care, is treating the three men. Many of its patients were involved in traffic accidents.
“These families have been so hugely affected that they feel a certain responsibility to make these lessons visible to the wider community, so that others are not subject to the same fate,” said Mr Al Hashemi.
Although the Government had been spending heavily on educating the public about the dangers of speeding and reckless driving, there were still too many accidents, he said.
Many perpetrators of traffic accidents and their victims tend to be young men. In many cases, they are Emiratis.
“Helping young people understand the dangers of dangerous driving is something that does take time to filter down the school system and through the community, so it eventually changes people’s behaviour,” said Mr Al Hashemi.
“However, a big proportion of our long-term patients continues to be victims of traffic accidents, and a disproportionate number of those are young men.”
As the families of those involved in traffic accidents are now sharing their stories, Mr Al Hashemi urged the community to take note.
“Listen to these narratives and take them to heart,” he said.
“The best we can do is to work with patients’ families and help share their stories to raise awareness in the community.
“Every patient who comes through our doors affects us, especially the young patients who have their whole lives ahead of them. [They have] all that future potential, all those decades of learning, family life and contributions to society taken away by one incidence of poor decision-making.”
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The victims of traffic accidents were often innocent bystanders rather than the reckless drivers, said Mr Al Hashemi. “You feel the most for those victims and you never get used to it,” he said.
Dr Khalid Anwar, a rehabilitation specialist at Amana Healthcare, said half of his patients who suffered from brain trauma or spinal chord injuries were involved in traffic accidents.
“For patients who have significant brain trauma, it is a life-changing thing,” he said. “It is catastrophic not only for them but for their families and society as a whole.
“Brain injuries are very different to physical injuries. It affects their cognition, their speech and their behaviour. Even minor brain injuries are significant.
“Once a patient has a brain injury, their life changes forever. But most of these injuries can be avoided.”
Dr Anwar said motorists had been showing a certain amount of arrogance and disregard of traffic safety on the roads.
“For a lot of people, this is something that will happen to someone else,” he said. “But the reality is that anyone can be in this position. It is such a life-changing and catastrophic event that changes everything in a few seconds.”
Updated: January 17, 2016 04:00 AM