by Darlene S. Whitlock RN, ARNP, EMT
The circumstances vary little from patient to patient—they are often young, in a car or pickup, not wearing a seatbelt, doing some risky speeding-texting-drug/alcohol- drowsy-distracted behavior. Sometimes they are completely innocent, just in the wrong place at the right time.
Another life ended—unnaturally.
The most common circumstance though, is a family and friends left to wonder how something so awful could happen so fast.
Emergency nurses see this time after time—in small communities and in the largest cities all across Kansas. Even if the person isn’t killed, they come to the Emergency Department in pain, disfigured, and with their lives disrupted even temporarily. This is besides the considerable financial toll.
This is an occurrence so common that special hospitals have been built to care for just these kinds of patients, special classes have been written to teach ambulance personnel, nurses and physicians how to care for them, and special equipment made to extricate them from the wreckage or care for them at the hospital. Police gain experience in death notification, social workers try to get them help to return to their previous life if they are injured and housekeeping staff have to clean the floors of the rooms where a whole group of people worked furiously to keep them alive.
This is not an attempt to shock or distress the reader—this is reality.
I believe that many of the deaths could be prevented, with so little effort. Every day injury prevention specialists give messages about wearing seatbelts and being attentive to all the details that driving requires. I do not understand the opposition to having things like a primary seatbelt law. The attempt to pass it last year was unsuccessful even when there was more than $10 million dollars direct financial benefit to the state. Would it really have restricted an important freedom of choice?
I am so pleased with the Child Passenger Safety laws and the Graduated Drivers License law. These are not attempts to control lives—they are attempts to save them.
In this time set aside to “put the brakes on fatalities,” I hope that I will not see another person—young or old—whose life ended unnaturally. Statistically though, I probably will. Wear your seatbelt.
Darlene S. Whitlock works in Trauma Services at Stormont Vail Health Center in Topeka and serves on the board of directors of the Kansas Emergency Nurses Association.