Sudden Impact

ImageHow often do you actually wear your seat belt? Is it every time you get in a car, or only when you’re riding in the front seat? Do you only wear it in the front seat to stop that annoying beeping sound? <– That right there was me before today. Today, half of my class traveled to LSU hospital for a program for teens called “Sudden Impact”, which was quite the eye opening experience. When we first arrived, we were greeted by a trauma nurse and a Louisiana State Police officer, both of whom asked us this very question during a game of jeopardy  I always knew that seat-belts saved lives, but for some reason, I just didn’t often wear one…

Throughout the game, they explained to us the three components of a car crash. First the car crashes, and then the bodies inside of the car crash with the same amount of force. The first two steps typically aren’t even the most fatal. Broken bones are easy to fix. Bones can be replaced. People can survive without their limbs. The third part of the car crash causes the most damage. After your body crashes, the force can also causes your internal organs to crash inside of you. Your brain can slam into your skull which can cause swelling and bleeding. Your aorta can rip from internal pressure. Your lungs can slam your ribs, which can cause a punctured lung. After explaining these facts + more, they showed us a video of a fake car crash. Bodies flew, bones broke, and of course organs were crushed, which caused bleeding noses and eyes and probably even more damage on the inside. In this particular crash, the victims most likely would have survived if they were wearing their seat-belts, because a seat-belt prevents ejection from a seat, slows down the force on your body, and seat the driver and passengers in the proper positioning for protection from other safety mechanisms in the car, such as the airbags.

The top reasons for car crashes are texting/talking or intoxication. Of course, as the majority of the people in the room were teenagers, we focused mainly on the intoxication portion because considering all of us have underdeveloped brains, all of us are bound to make a bad decision from time to time. Of course we’ve all heard stories about drunk driving accidents, but at this program a guest speaker came to tell his true story. He was a man with impaired speech and permanent bone injuries who spoke to us about a bad decision he’d made when he was 18. He’d typically drink half a beer at parties, get home safely, and he’d manage to make it to work the next day. As the weeks went by, he’d allow himself a full beer, then 2 beers, until one night, the crash happened. He wasn’t expecting it. He didn’t think anything like that would ever happen to him, but it did.  Lucky for him, he was wearing a seat belt and was able to survive, even after being in a coma for over 3 months, and spending 5 years retraining his speech and motor skills.

The most amazing thing about life changing crashes like his is that  a large percentage of them are totally preventable. We as humans just need to make good decisions. Think about the victims in a car crash with an intoxicated driver; They could have done absolutely nothing wrong.  The driver gets a few years in prison, but the victim could be damaged for life, or even worse killed. One of my classmates asked the Policeman what was one of the saddest crashes he’d had to deal with. The policeman said he’s seen some crazy injuries in crashes, but having to tell parents that their children are never going to come back home is definitely the hardest part about his job. He then spoke about a family who was coming home from vacation. The mother had to take a flight back, while her husband, son, and daughter drove home. Her family was killed in a fatal car crash. When she arrived at the airport, the police stopped her and brought her into a room. She immediately began to cry before they even revealed the news. What’s worse is that her daughter was pregnant, so the crash killed her potential grandchild as well.

At the end of the program, we were granted the opportunity to visit the ER and ICU.  While in one of the ER operating rooms, we were being spoken to by a doctor as a construction worker who’s arm had been severely cut by a grinder was being rolled in. This was unexpected because typically the paramedics call before bringing a patient in, however whoever he was with must have just drove him to the hospital themselves. Needless to say, we departed the room, following a trail of blood on the floor.  Next we went to the ICU where we were to meet with a man with severe brain injury from a crash. However, his brain was beginning to swell, so he had to be taken to emergency surgery so the doctors could cut open his skull to release the pressure. We were also going to meet a woman who’s arms were so mangled from the crash that morning, that there was no other option but to amputate them. Unfortunately, her internal issues were so serious, that the doctors weren’t sure if she would make it.

I’m not sure I’d ever be able to share with you everything I’ve learned today, or if you’ll even be able to feel the same significance in what I’m saying that I felt when it was being told to me, simply because you weren’t there. I don’t drink, and I don’t even drive, but for some reason, I am still suddenly impacted.