Monday, 31 August 2015

Wild coincidences

I was glancing back at some of my previous posts recently, and I realised I hadn't mentioned anything about seat belts in a while.  As an aside, I hope it doesn't sound too narcissistic to admit that I occasionally read my old posts, mainly to make sure I'm not repeating myself.  Because who the hell wants to read another repeated story about another repeated subject.

But I digress.  As I was saying, seat belts are a very sensitive subject for me (as I'm sure you can easily tell), one that I feel quite passionate about.  Obviously.  I wasn't planning on bringing up the subject for a while, because who the hell wants to read yet another story about yet another idiot who failed to put on his seat belt and sustained much more serious injuries than he otherwise would have.  Blah blah blah, we've heard it all a million times before.  Wait, am I repeating myself? 

Damn it.

Anyway, I was going to lay off the Seat Belt Preaching for a while, but after meeting Ryan and Douglas (not their real names™), it became instantly clear that not everyone in the world reads my blog (why the hell not?).  These two had apparently missed all my previous Seat Belt Preaching and had therefore not gotten the message. 

Theirs is a story I can't afford not to share.

The vast majority of patients I get in my trauma bay come one at a time.  Occasionally I get multiple victims from the same incident - 2 stabbing victims, 2 guys who beat each other up over a stolen bar stool, 2 occupants of the same car . . . you get the idea.  So when I heard a helicopter would be bringing me two car accident victims, both trauma bays were readied immediately.  Equipment was gathered, personnel arrived, coffee was finished.  The first young man rolled in about 15 minutes later looking very anxious but relatively uninjured.

Feel that foreshadowing yet?

"Morning Doc, this is Ryan.  He was in a high-speed MVC," the medic began.  "Front-end collision, major damage to the driver's side."

I started my evaluation, but less than a minute later the second victim arrived looking markedly sicker than Ryan.  I left Ryan's trauma bay immediately to tend to Victim 2, and the medic started his story.

"Morning, Doc.  Here we have Doug, high-speed head-on crash, major damage to the car, driver's side.  He's the other guy's best friend," he said as he pointed his thumb towards the other trauma bay.

Ok, I asked, which one was driving?  It's not a terribly important bit of data, but one I always ask anyway.

"Both of them," the medic responded.

Oh, ok . . . wait, what?  

"How . . . how is that possible?"  I asked, completely bewildered, trying to imagine one sitting on the other's lap.

"They were driving separate cars," he explained.

Oh, ok.  Wait, what?

"But . . . but you said they were best friends", I continued, my bewilderment not improving at all.

"Yes.  Yes I did," quoth he.

His smug grin did nothing to make me feel better.  I rarely have the desire to smack another man.  This was one of those times.

It probably makes just as little sense to you now as it did to me at the time.  I'm sure you'd like to avoid the stupid "WTF???" face I'm sure I was wearing just then, so I'll explain better than the medic did in hopes that you won't want to smack me in the face.

Apparently Ryan's truck's steering locked up and he lost control, crossing into oncoming traffic.  He tried desperately to regain control, but he was unable to.  When he looked up he immediately recognised the car he was coincidentally about to hit as his best friend Doug's.

They smashed into each other at a combined 225 kph (140 mph), utterly destroying both vehicles.  The bad news is that neither Ryan nor Doug normally wore his seat belt.  The good news is that Ryan, for reasons only known to him, decided to put his on that day.  And because of his seat belt, Ryan walked out of my trauma bay with a few scratches and bruises and a demolished truck.

Doug, on the other hand, suffered a subdural haematoma, an open fracture of his femur, a broken spine, and a broken foot.  After a month in hospital, two surgeries on his leg, one on his brain, a feeding tube, and a tracheostomy, he finally started to wake up.  Over the ensuing two weeks, his mental status improved to the point where he could look at me and give me a thumbs-up when I asked him to, but he was still unable to talk.  A few days later I transferred him to a rehabilitation facility that specialises in children.

He is just 17 years old.

There is no telling what kind of permanent neurological dysfunction Doug will have, if any.  The brain is a funny organ, and its recovery is highly unpredictable.  It can take a year or more to recover, but there is no way to foresee how much will come back.  What I do know is that his life (and those of his parents) has been permanently altered because he didn't listen to his mother, who badgered him daily about fastening his seat belt.  Ryan, on the other hand, will be left with a few minor scars and a damaged best friend to remind him.  I don't suspect he'll need any other reminders.

Seat belts are there for a reason.  They don't hurt.  They take one second to fasten, less to unfasten.  And they save lives.  SO PUT IT THE HELL ON GOD DAMN IT YOU IDIOTS.  NOW.

And now I'm done repeating myself.  For now.

36 comments:

  1. as a child, I hated seat belts. partially because modern inertial seat belt retracters hadn't been invented yet, so the belts either had to be manually adjusted, or in the worst example, every bump would allow them to automatically cinch up another notch until they were cutting you in half, and had to be taken off and put back on to reset the ratchet system for another try.
    then I started getting closer to driving age, and realizing that in the vehicle I expected to learn to drive in, there was a slick bench seat, and I normally held myself in place with my feet. feet I would need to use for driving when I got to drive.
    I have worn a seatbelt whenever available ever since (yes, one of the vehicles I drive was built without seat belts) add on the fact that through a combination of youthful bad judgement and bad luck, I have been involved in 4 accidents where I would have been worse off without the belt; and through the fire service, I have been on scene for a series of accidents featuring both belted and unbelted people, and gotten to compare injuries; I feel insecure without the belt.

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  2. When I was a kid (the middle of seven), my parents got their first NEW CAR!!! It was a 1964 Ford Country Squire station wagon. I remember we had to wait two weeks for it, because they had extras added. Not A/C, not fancy fake wood trim: they added a seat belt to the middle front seat, where one of the youngest ones sat, and one long seat belt for the third row bench seat. (Yeah, it was loads of fun being belted together with two of my siblings when I sat in the "way back" seat.) But it was the only safe way to carry nine people at the same time.
    Now, I feel naked without that familiar shoulder harness.

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  3. I get in a vehicle, I use a seatbelt. It's been automatic since childhood.

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  4. This is a message that can't be repeated enough. Same as the Anonymous above me, I've been putting on my seatbelt automatically since I was little. There was a period where I got out of the habit out of laziness because we had a car who's seatbelt was hard to put on but as soon as my parents noticed this, I got hell for it. Even as an adult though if you take the proper steps you can develop this habit and it will feel like second nature to put it on.

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  5. Note to designers. Short people have a really hard time seeing when backing up. A seatbelt makes it that much harder.

    However, I do put it on always once done.

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    1. Err....please see my reply below. Blogspot commenting is not my friend either.

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  6. My now adult children who sit in the back seats always remind Mr Bunny to put on his seat belt. They've been doing that since they were in car seats. I always wear mine.
    When I was about 7 and riding in a big old Chevy police car with bench seats (Dad was a cop) my brother hadn't shut the door well, and we made a left turn and he just rolled out the door when it opened. Couldn't wait for the day when we got a car with belts.

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  7. At the age of 20, my son was in a bad multicar crash on a highway; I got the hysterical "MOM!! I WAS IN A BAD ACCIDENT!!! I'M REALLY HURT!!!" phone call. My husband and I met the ambulance at the hospital. By then the shock had worn off, and although bruised, my son had no serious injuries. I stepped out of the room to ask the doctor about the damage to his face from the airbag; could he have broken his nose? The doctor looked at me and said "I don't even know just how rarely I get to write in a report "fully restrained 20 year old male driver." Your son is FINE. His nose is bruised, but will be FINE. He wore his seatbelt."

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    1. My kids know if I get that phone call, to hell with cars. I'm mounting my broomstick and FLYING to their side. ;-) You know, after I got my heart under control.

      I'm SO glad your son got the message and hung onto it. If either of my kids are ever in a car accident, I hope they're wearing their seat belts and their injuries, if any, are minor. They always wear a seatbelt when in my vehicles and I've seen evidence that they wear it in other cars too. But all it takes is failure to wear it that one time...

      Wednesday

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  8. in contrast, an unspecified time ago, we had a call for a hunter who had rolled off the road. first thing we saw was that the driver had been unbelted. after a very short conference, we decided the best option would be to wait for the wreckers to get there, pull the vehicle back up to the road, and then pull the driver the rest of the way out of the vehicle directly onto the coroner's gurney.
    Doc's colleagues never saw that one.

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  9. We have a "tattle tale" car where if we don't put on our seat belts it makes an obnoxious beeping noise until everyone is buckled in. All cars should come with that honestly. It's so easy to get off work with a million things on your mind and forget to buckle in. Anyway, this car got us both in the habit of just putting on the belts. First it was to shut it up, now it's just second nature. Of course, now that we have a kid, we make sure mini-shark is buckled in properly with the chest clip in the right place.

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    Replies
    1. The "reminder alarms" are noisy but, IMHO, a great feature. My last few cars have had them. I personally don't need the reminder, since using a seatbelt is such an ingrained habit, but I find it handy for my *passengers* who need to be reminded sometimes. Kinda relieves *me* of being blamed for being a nag :)

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  10. Not mine. And, blind spots.

    However, I recently had a rental and it had a video camera of behind. Way cool but I can't afford that now. :-(

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    Replies
    1. some new cars have terrible visibility. but more seriously, half of the things I drive are for one reason or another, opaque behind the driver. there is no such thing as turning to look over my shoulder.

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    2. I rented a Chevy Impala for a recent trip and it had a backup camera. What a great thing for a short person like me. Even with my seat raised I still have trouble seeing over my shoulder. (I have a problem turning my head due to brachial plexus lesions). I told the spouse we have to have one in our next car.

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    3. I've rented an impala. that was one I was thinking about having bad sight lines.

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    4. The backup camera is only helpful if it actually *works.* I was using a rental that had one (2015 Camry) when my car was in for repairs last month. Problem was, it wasn't properly set to show anything *close* to actual distance, and there was no way for the driver to adjust it. A car or any other object that was actually 10 feet or so from my rear bumper showed up on the camera as if it were halfway down the block! I guess that's OK if you want to just view the scenery you've recently passed up, but not useful at all if you want to do something like parallel parking.

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    5. I suspect the intent was a wider field of view, just like the "objects in mirror are closer than they appear" mirrors.

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    6. That's what I first thought too. But there's a red "warning box" outline that appears over the image to show you when the object behind you is supposedly getting into the "too close" range. When I was parking the car on the street by the office, two of my co-workers were standing right behind my car, and there was another car parked right behind them, and the "box" still showed a HUGE expanse of empty pavement in front of them, though real distance was just a few feet. Apparently this darn thing just wasn't working right. But since it was a rental, I didn't bother to complain about it, just used my eyes and mirrors as usual.

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  11. Doc, these two guys weren't the only "best friends" to ever get in an accident. My daughter and her BFF had one too. My daughter's friend rear-ended her when the car slid on an icy side street, while they were on their way to another friend's house to visit during a school break. (My daughter's friend was following a bit too closely for winter road conditions, because she hadn't been to this particular friend's home before, and my daughter knew the way because we've known the family for years). .

    Fortunately, there was no major damage to either car, since they were driving at a slow speed, and, much more importantly, no damage to either of them, because they were both wearing seat belts. :)

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  12. years ago when I was in college, my girlfriend and I were convoying home for a holiday break.we came up on a traffic jam (later found out there had been 8 accidents in 20 miles of freeway) I went into panic stopping mode - she just went into panic. fortunately, she hit me quickly enough there wasn't that much speed differential. her car was undamaged, and my pickup had minor damage to the back bumper.
    the irony - 3 months before, I had been sideswiped by a drowsy driver, damaging the back bumper. I'd told the body man to just press it straight and leave it because I had a feeling I was going to get rear-ended within the year.

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  13. I am on my chair in my bedroom right now and it does not have a seat belt. Should I get it replaced?

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    Replies
    1. Yes. And get a helmet whileyou're at it. No excuses.

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    2. Don't forget the special alert horn that goes 'doot-doot-doot' if you slide the chair backward.

      Wednesday

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  14. My kids were told from the moment they were strapped into their rear-facing infant car seats (also secured) that cars do not start unless EVERYONE is buckled in!

    As I had the power of the rearview mirror to complement the eyes in the back of my head, if I saw or heard the sound of a child stealthily unbuckling I would scream, "Oh my god - who unbuckled? We're going to get rammed and DIE RIGHT HERE ON I-270!"

    Then there would be another 'click' and a panicky kid face in the mirror.

    It worked well. My younger child passed that tip on to a friend who had a baby several years ago. Emphasized it, no less! I was really pleased.

    Wednesday

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    Replies
    1. Hello from St Louis! I've done the same with my girls

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    2. Hello from St Louis! I've done the same with my girls

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  15. My mom made it a habit for us kids that as soon as we are in a car, we buckle up. I just feel off if I don't. A few years ago when I was about to graduate high school, my friend (a volunteer fire fighter) was called to the scene of a car accident that ended up involving two classmates we both knew. Both lacked seatbelts and were drunk. Only one of them survived, and he was very fortunate with only a broken leg, broken ribs, and a head injury. I'd like to say he learned a lesson at the cost of his best friend's life, but he didn't. You'd think that would be enough reason to stop repeating the same mistakes.

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    Replies
    1. we've had a few years we've lost a high school student within weeks of graduation.

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    2. @Ken Brown - same here. Year after year this happens. In addition, it's often the well-heeled parents who give their teenager a high-powered expensive sports car and then are so, so surprised when that car is wrapped around a tree with one or more bodies spilling out of it.

      I feel badly for the parents even as I want to grab them and shake them very hard while questioning their good sense.

      Wednesday

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    3. we don't really HAVE a lot of well heeled parents.

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  16. Unfortunately I know of one instance where the seat belt killed the passenger. She was a young teenager and the mom was driving another car got her and the seat belt snapped cutting her. She died instantly. I still wear my setbelt as I've been in too many accidents not too. But sometimes tragedy comes from the most unlikely place.

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    1. There are immense forces involved in car accidents and when a loaded cable (e.g. a belt) snaps the recoil can be devastating - this illustrative article comes to mind: http://priceonomics.com/a-history-of-tug-of-war-fatalities/

      You would want seat-belts to have some stretch to help absorb the energy of the person's movement but that's going to cause problems if the belt ever snaps.

      A belt shouldn't snap unless it's damaged but clearly that happens often enough that it's one of the things they check for in the UK MOT test (an annual road-worthiness/safety check). I expect it happens occasionally but I would guess that in most cases where there is enough force to snap even a damaged belt, the accident would have been pretty severe and so the occupant would still have been in a lot of trouble if unrestrained.

      Did the mother say whether she herself had worn a belt?

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  17. Friends of mine died in a crash from not wearing a seatbelt. One died at the scene. The other, we think, died because her girlfriend died and she simply did not want to live anymore. Our friend was really this person, and because the gf was the gf she was also our friend. We were so horrified that they didn't bother to wear seatbelts and then had to go through that grief again a couple months later when our friend gave up. She had a tough life and we all thought that she gave up the will to live when she was supposed to be recovering. Saddest thing and the thing that makes me the most angry at the same time.

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