Road traffic accidents remain one of the highest causes of death among people between the age of 5-29 in Kenya; second only to HIV/AIDS and related illnesses. Kenya has experienced an increase in road traffic accidents in the last decade mainly due to an increase in urbanization and motorization. Worth noting is that human error has been cited as the reason most accidents occur, meaning that majority of accidents are avoidable. Let us explore some of the healthcare implications of road traffic accidents and their long-term effects.
The most common injury sustained in a road traffic accident are soft tissue injuries, these include bruises, muscle or tendon injuries, sprains, strains or contusions. Injuries to the skin and other soft tissues can be so severe they require reconstructive surgery performed by a plastic surgeon. Reconstructive surgery may involve a series of procedures until the plastic surgeon and the patient are satisfied with the results; and in some cases, the patient’s appearance is completely altered. Additionally, multiple procedures put a heavy financial and emotional burden on those affected and their loved ones.
The second most common injury after a road traffic accident are bone fractures, broken bones and dislocated joints. The bones and skeleton at large act like a protective shield around our vital organs, therefore damage to them leaves our organs vulnerable. Significant injury to the spine could cause damage to the spinal cord causing paralysis. Breaking the big bones on the leg or damage to the major joints like the hip joint or ankle joint causes significant mobility challenges, and in some cases supportive care like physiotherapy is needed long-term to regain proper mobility. Orthopedic surgeons in this day and age have been able to help in the most difficult cases, but again the financial and mental-emotional burden of lost mobility temporarily or permanently is felt by the community at large.
The psychological and mental health effects of road traffic accidents are felt by more than those involved in the accident. The trauma experienced by survivors, and secondary trauma of their loved ones and onlookers may cause PTSD, anxiety and other mental health challenges. Notably the effects of severe injury and even a lost life are felt by the entire community and the country at large. The complexities around trauma may cause one to feel shame or embarrassment around the event, depression, or stress from the financial strain of healthcare. One may experience symptoms like trouble falling asleep or nightmares, mood fluctuations, loss of appetite or weight loss, sexual dysfunction, loss of interest in things that once excited them among others. If you or your loved one have experienced any of these seek help from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Caution on the roads should be at the forefront of every driver’s mind, and if you are a survivor and are on the road to recovery, take heart, the journey may be long and steep but you are not alone.