Life will never be the same after drunk driving accident

October 18, 2023 - 09:51
The Neurology Department of the Việt Nam-Germany Hospital receives drunk driving patients almost every day. Dr Bùi Huy Mạnh said patients from traffic accidents account for one fifth of the total number admitted to the department.
Drunk driving patients being treated at Việt Nam-Germany Hospital in Hà Nội with severe traffic accident injuries. — Photo

HÀ NỘI — Nguyễn Văn Lam (not his real name), 30 years old, from Thanh Hóa Province, has undergone 15 brain and bone surgeries in more than 10 years as a consequence of an accident while he was drunk driving.

The number of surgeries will keep rising, he was told by doctors of Việt Nam-Germany Hospital in Hà Nội.

After a party to celebrate his high school graduation over 10 years ago, Lam was riding his motorbike home while drunk.

In a single moment, the celebration turned into a tragedy.

When he was hospitalised with multiple serious injuries after the accident, no one expected he would survive.

Undergoing three major operations on his brain, bone and infection, he did escape death, but like many other traffic accident victims with brain injuries, he has to live with severe consequences for the rest of his life.

In his 20s, instead of a university entrance gate welcoming him he was facing a mind which was no longer clear, wheelchairs, sudden epileptic seizures and regular surgeries with lots of complications.

The Neurology Department of the Việt Nam-Germany Hospital receives drunk driving patients almost every day.

Dr Bùi Huy Mạnh from the department said patients from traffic accidents account for one fifth of the total number admitted to the department every day.

In fact, this rate has decreased sharply compared to the previous period thanks to Decree 100 which has banned drivers from drinking alcohol since early 2020.

A few years ago, traffic accident patients who used alcohol accounted for one third or half of patients treated at the department, Mạnh told Dân Trí (Intellectual) newspaper.

In the past three years, the Việt Nam-Germany Hospital received 49,803 patients from traffic accidents. Among those, as many as 8,689 tested positive for high blood alcohol concentration.

Mạnh said life for many drunk driving patients would never be the same as before their accidents.

Checking the health of a 50-year-old drunk driver who just underwent major brain surgery, Mạnh said this man was rushed to the hospital in a coma.

His blood alcohol concentration was up to 46,953 mmol per litre, which is extremely high.

It is predicted that his life will be difficult. He can live, but there is a high risk of having neurological complications for the rest of his life such as hemiplegia and cognitive defects, Dr Mạnh said.

The patient is now in active treatment with special medical care, which also puts added pressure on the finances of his family who do not have much money.

Even if the patient is lucky enough to recover and be discharged from the hospital, the burden will still linger. As the family breadwinner, he will find it difficult to return to his old job because of neurological complications, the doctor said.

Financial burden

According to the health ministry, traffic accidents caused by alcohol use are always a problem for the entire society. In Việt Nam, alcohol is one of three leading causes of increasing traffic accident rates in men aged 15-49 years old.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol-related traffic accidents in Việt Nam are estimated to account for 36 per cent of all traffic accidents among men and 0.7 per cent among women.

According to the Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health, Việt Nam ranks second among Southeast Asian countries and third in Asia in terms of alcohol consumption per capita.

Dangerous excessive drinking is also very common among Vietnamese adults, up to 44.2 per cent of men.

Dr Mạnh said suffering a traumatic brain injury from a traffic accident after drinking alcohol causes a huge burden not only on the victim, but also on the family and the medical industry.

He said injuries after using alcohol are more likely to become serious. One of the reasons is that the patient vomits easily, leading to the risk of stomach elements entering the airway.

This condition causes severe damage to the lungs, leading to pneumonia, white lung syndrome, and major increases in treatment time and treatment volume, he said.

During his time working at the Việt Nam-Germany Hospital, Dr Mạnh feels sorrow for young drunk patients he has treated, who lost their future just because of some cups of beer or alcohol.

From being the main workforce, after a drinking party, many young people have become a burden to their families and society.

"A patient with a traumatic brain injury is a disaster for the whole family. The treatment costs for patients who have to undergo surgery alone range from VNĐ60-70 million," he said.

And this is just the initial cost. For patients who have to be in recovery or undergo special interventions, hospital fees will increase significantly. After leaving the hospital, patients and their families must face the costs of treating complications.

Police check the alcohol level of a driver in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Phạm Kiên

In the case of Nguyễn Văn Lam from Thanh Hóa Province, every two years he has to visit the hospital for surgery to treat complications. Each such surgery costs VNĐ30-40 million.

This entire economic burden falls on his mother's shoulders. She works as a fish seller, and her savings are barely enough to take her child for surgery, Dr Mạnh said.

According to Dr Mạnh, many patients thought they could still drive even while drunk. In fact, driving requires a lot of nervous system activity.

Research has proven that besides humans, no animal can participate in traffic because it is too complex. Meanwhile, alcohol has a strong impact on the nervous system, even when consumed in small amounts.

Considering the above risks and consequences, Dr Mạnh recommended that people absolutely not drive their own vehicles after using alcohol.

"A patient with traumatic brain injury and airway obstruction can have treatment time doubled compared to a patient with the same traumatic brain injury but not using alcohol.

Machinery, medicines and medical interventions are also required more. This puts great pressure on treatment facilities which are already overloaded," said Mạnh. — VNS