Asiana airlines plane crash victims face a long recovery. While most of the 307 passengers and crew walked away from the crash of the Boeing Co. 777 jetliner with minor wounds, at least 23 people remained hospitalized yesterday at San Francisco-area hospitals, including at least five in critical condition. Two 16-year-old girls died in the July 6 crash. Three patients still in the intensive care unit at San Francisco General Hospital may be there for months.
Most of the personal injury incurred is similar to whiplash in car accidents. The passenger’s lap belt led to injuries caused by the upper body being snapped forward, then back. The seats, too, intensified the effect.
At Stanford Hospital, surgeon David Spain saw five spinal column fractures. In the less-serious cases, the bone was broken but the spine was stable. Patients with that kind of broken back generally are put in a brace for about three months to prevent loss of height and maintain their posture.
Rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries varies depending on the site of the trauma, with a great deal of variation in programs, It’s also not clear at early stages of treatment how much someone will recover.
Common responses to spinal injuries include muscle weakness, loss of control of the bowels and bladder, and sensory losses, such as an inability to feel vibrations or to sense heat and cold. Some patients experience pain from damaged nerves, as well as severe, painful muscle spasms that can limit mobility and independence. The rehab process can be anywhere from a few months to a few years, Peck says.
Recovery from brain injuries is similar, About 80 percent of traumatic brain injury is mild, and those patients generally do well, he said. However, brain injury affects each patient differently, and can have effects on thinking, mental skills, judgment, behavior and mobility.
Common side effects include headaches, vision and balance issues, sensitivity to light and noise, and difficulty sleeping, About 70 percent of patients with spinal cord or brain injuries also experience anxiety and depression.
These are catastrophic injuries that typically impact people’s ability to take care of themselves, and they affect the whole family as well.
Another difficulty treating those most seriously injured in the Asiana crash are that many don’t live in the U.S. The hospital is working on a plan to collaborate with their home countries for rehabilitation efforts.
About the Author
Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.