The picture contains two X-rays from the same man after a severe car accident, one taken in the Emergency department immediately after the event, and another on the day of discharge from hospital several months later.
Encounters with people like this make one realise how precious life is and how it can be taken away in a single minute. One mistake when driving a car can result in extreme injury, or death. This man was lucky to have survived his ordeal.
Despite improvements in road conditions, vehicle safety and driver education, over 3 million people are injured in road accidents each year. In the period after an accident when someone is injured the focus is on saving life, preventing life-threatening complications, healing and physical rehabilitation. Later there can be psychological consequences most notably post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), frequently not recognised. These disorders cause extensive lifestyle restriction. Mental healing is essential for the injured person to pick up life again.
Whether the person involved is a driver, passenger, pedestrian or even just an observer some people struggle mentally in the days and weeks following a crash. Up to 30 per cent will deal with a negative psychological response. Although most recover from the anxiety which is a natural reaction to a stressful incident, others develop PTSD symptoms that can become chronic. Some will have no symptoms, some just minor symptoms, but others run the full gamut with disabling flashback memories, anxiety related to the trauma, hyper-activity, irritability, confusion, sleeplessness, lassitude, difficulty concentrating, and feeling upset, angry, helpless or ‘out-of-control’.
It’s been shown that it is not so much the severity of the crash, or injury that is important, but more, how that person perceives it. Children seem to do better than adults. It is interesting that a single counselling and debriefing session after a motor vehicle accident results in a worse outcome than if there has been no intervention.
In this picture I’ve contrasted a wild chaotic pattern in the background with regular square shapes attempting to illustrate the mental journey from the out-of-body sensation of the motor vehicle accident experience (It is happening. But it feels like it’s not happening to YOU) through injury, physical recovery, returning to the person they used to be, or possibly even a new updated person.