The National – covered a cautionary story to alert the young drivers of UAE by illustrating real stories that involves patients of Amana Healthcare whose lives been deeply impacted by careless driving.
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 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 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 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. 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”
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.”
On November 12 last year, Yousef Al Shehhi, a 17-year-old top student at a military high school, was asleep in the passenger seat with his seatbelt on as his brother Ali, 21, drove him to a laser eye surgery appointment in Dubai. When a lorry swerved in front of them on Emirates Road, it led to a multi-vehicle pile-up that killed one person and severely injured several people. Ali escaped with minor injuries but Yousef was hit on the right side of his head, a blow that partially severed his ear.
“At 12.30pm, the accident happened,” said Mrs Al Shehhi. “He was all ready for eye surgery, for life, for everything. And then this. I started shivering and shaking. I was in absolute shock,” Mrs Al Shehhi says while wiping tears from her eyes as she recalled being told that her younger son was involved in a car crash.” When she visited a comatose Yousef in hospital, the mother-of-eight thought she would collapse. “I just started praying to God that he would get better,” she said. Yousef suffered severe head trauma and brain haemorrhaging, leading to significant cognitive damage that impaired his speech, short-term memory and movement. Yousef is being treated at a hospital in Abu Dhabi, where doctors said his long-term medical outlook was uncertain.
Mrs Al Shehhi urged motorists to drive safely. “Don’t use your mobile phone while driving. Use the seatbelt and leave enough space between each and every car,” she said. She also said she hoped her children’s accident “will prevent more accidents on the roads and it can contribute to saving other people’s lives”
Before his accident, Ahmed Matrooshi was on the verge of making the UAE’s national football team and had a year left of school before graduating.
Instead, the 19-year-old Emirati is now an amputee and has suffered devastating injuries that have ended his dreams of playing the sport again – a direct consequence of being in a speeding car while not wearing a seatbelt. The father of the Sharjah-born teenager, who declined to give his name, said his son and friends were socialising on the Corniche in Kalba, Sharjah, on November, 29, 2012, when Ahmed’s life changed.
“At the time of the accident, they were speeding and racing another vehicle when they crashed into the traffic light pole,” he said. “All four friends were unrestrained by seatbelts. The driver was not licensed and sustained a broken leg, and the two back-seat passengers were fortunate enough to not suffer any injuries.” However, it was Ahmed, sitting in the front passenger seat, who suffered the most. To his father, the list of his injuries seemed endless: a severe traumatic brain injury, severe injuries to his lower left leg resulting in its amputation below the knee, multiple other fractures, several muscle contusions and multiple damage to ligaments and tendons.
“I struggle with sadness when I leave Ahmed after visiting,” said his father. “I feel like I am missing one of my sons.” After receiving rehabilitation treatment in Germany for a year-and-a-half after the accident, Ahmed is now at Amana Healthcare in Al Ain. “He has a minimal state of consciousness and is dependent for all activities of daily living,” said his father. “Due to the length of time since his injury, this is unlikely to change.”
“Don’t drive if you do not have a licence and wear your seatbelt,” he added.
At the age of 22, Ahmed D had his whole life ahead of him. A student at the Petroleum Institute, the Fujairah-born Emirati was a keen artist, had a passion for drawing and a keen interest in football.
On April 12, 2012, the student was a rear-seat passenger in a car with three friends returning home on the Abu Dhabi–Al Ain road when they were hit by a speeding vehicle. None of the four was wearing a seatbelt. “The driver of the speeding vehicle was the only person in the other vehicle – he died on impact and the vehicle burst into flames,” said Ahmed’s father, who asked not to be named.
“Of those in the vehicle that Ahmed was occupying, his friend who was in the back with him died on impact, and the two friends in the front were fortunate to sustain only minor injuries and have managed to continue on with their lives.” While Ahmed survived, his injuries were life-changing. He suffered multiple fractures and severe traumatic brain injury, later causing spastic quadriplegia, among other conditions.
Ahmed’s father was out of the country at the time of the accident. When he was first told, he was in “complete disbelief”. “My family and I were obviously devastated but were grateful he was alive,” he said. Ahmed’s daily life is one of total dependency on others, a situation that, sadly, is unlikely to change. “When making your decisions about driving, think of the impact it could have on your and other people’s lives,” said his father.