DUI – driving under the influence, or DWI – driving while intoxicated, has become prevalent in the news headlines lately; from celebrities, to teenagers, to college frat parties and so on. This has become very common between adults and teenagers. Lindsey Lohan, Mel Gibson, Tony Rock (Chris Rock brother), Mike Tyson, Rebecca De Mornay, Nick Bollea, Parris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Ray Liotta, Vivica A. Fox; Tony LaRussa, Warren Moon, and Shia LaBeouf are just some of the celebrities who have been caught in the Celebrity DUI Spotlight. Apparently we are not paying much attention to the statistics and the news because on average, someone is killed every 40 minutes by a drunk driver.
DUI or DWI has become prevalent in our society today. In 2002, 2.3 Americans 18 years and older were surveyed and reported alcohol impaired driving. When compared to the 1997 survey of this same population, the number for that year was 2.1. According to the National Commission Against Drunk Driving (NCADD) over 20% of all traffic fatalities in the United States each year is cause by drunk driving. DUI or DWI is proving to be deadlier than we previously knew. Drivers often over look the fact that DUI or DWI is dangerous. People do not take the time to understand DUI and the tragic consequences underlying this hazard.
I understand that we live in a very secular society and that partying and good times are a part of human nature, but the simple key is responsibility. I am sure you have heard some MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) campaigns out there. MADD is a non-profit organization that seeks to stop drunk driving, support those affected by drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and overall push for stricter alcohol policy. The organization was founded in 1980, in Irving, Texas by Candice Lightner, after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Clarence Busch. On the other hand, SADD, founded as Students Against Driving Drunk in 1981 in Wayland, Massachusetts, has grown to become the nation’s dominant peer-to-peer youth prevention organization with over 10,000 chapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges in the USA (United States of America). In 1997, in response to request from SADD students themselves, SADD expanded its mission and name, and now sponsors chapters called Students Against Destructive Decisions. SADD continues to endorse a firm “no use” message related to use of alcohol and other drugs. With its expanded focus, SADD now highlights prevention of all destructive behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to young people, including underage drinking; substance abuse impaired driving, violence and suicide.
Most campaigns states drink responsibly. Being responsible includes planning your party booze ahead of time. This entails getting a designated driver, planning to sleep over a friend’s house if the party is being held there, or sleeping in your car if you find yourself at a bar or club. Do not become a statistic or a part of statistics. We need to be responsible enough to understand the consequences and the impact that drunk driving places on you as an individual and society. I like to introduce some families to you. Here is my first family. Picture yourself, your 3 children and mother attending a great family reunion and on the way home, your kids are ridding with their grandmother and their car is ahead of you. All of a sudden, a driver going the wrong way, drunk, hits your family head-on. Your 3 children and mother dies instantly right in front of your eyes. Imagine this pain, hurt and suffering that you will have to endure for the rest of your life. Someone decided to take a chance with his life, and took the lives of four instead of his own.
This is what happened to Cassie Crapps a 26 year, on February 6, 2008 in Arkansas. Her 3 children and mom were killed by a repeat offender who decided to be irresponsible. He wanted to party and take a chance. “You cannot eat your cake and have it.” This saying is so true. When it comes to human lives, especially where others are concern, you cannot take chances. Life is not about gambling; LIFE IS SO PRECIOUS. It is one of the things that you cannot give back to someone when it is taken; you do not have that power. You can hurt someone by saying the wrong thing and apologize to them, and they will forgive you. Though you hurt a person’s feelings, there will still be a way to make him or her understand through your apologies. You may damage something from someone and be able to pay back in cash or other products and services. However; when you injured a person or take a person’s life, you will never replaced the devastation, hurt, disappointment, pain, anguish and suffering felt by the love ones left behind to carry this burden or to care for the injuries. It is a pain that is indescribable. The hole is so deep that no matter how many condolences received, it cannot fill that place that person once occupied.
On September 19, 2008 I lost someone very dear to me, my husband. My nightmare all begin September 14. My husband called me on his way home from work and this was the conversion:
Smain: Hi Sweetie,
Lydia: Hi Smain. How are you?
Smain: Are you awake?
Lydia: Yes. I just woke up. I spent all day at the salon. I need to find a different salon. They are too slow at the current place I’m going.
Smain: Did they do a good job with your hair?
Lydia: yes, it is pretty.
Smain: Sweetie, you will not believe what happened to me.
Lydia: What? Are you okay? Are you stuck in traffic?
Smain: No. My car is overheating, I don’t understand it. I just took it for servicing.
Lydia: Where are you?
Smain: I am on 695. I am at exit 23, on the left hand side, on the shoulder. I have turned off the car to help cool down the engine.
Lydia: Sweetie, I think you should turn around and try to go to Mom’s house. You are not far from there and then I will meet you there.
Smain: No Sweetie. It is late to go to your parent’s house. They are all sleeping. I am too tired. I just want to come home.
Lydia: Do you want me to call the tow truck?
Smain: No. they will take forever. You know what? Come and meet me. Bring some antifreeze and I will use that to cool the engine and you can drive behind me. If it continues to give us problem then we will call for a tow truck.
Lydia: okay sweetie, I will see you in a few.
Smain: and oh sweetie, bring me some water to drink, I am thirsty.
Lydia: okay I will be there soon. Bye sweetie.
In my wildest dreams, I never imagined this being the last conversation that would transpire between my husband and me. When I got to where he was, all I saw was flashing lights, ambulances and police cars. The interstate was shut down. It is about 3-4 lanes on the highway and they were all closed about 1/2-1mile before the crash. I called my husband about a million times and then, it dawn on me that he must have been involved in the crash. The tears started flowing; my legs became weak and numb. I could not feel the pedal beneath my feet. My heart was racing and my pulses were faster than my thoughts. I felt like I was about to pass out. I called my mother. She came running to my aid. I did not know if I wanted to move forward or stop. I knew my world had been turned upside down but I did not know the full details. Finally, after 1 hour or 1 and 1/2 hour, the traffic started to move. I could not wait to see the scene. I was praying and hoping and then I saw my husband mustang. The car windshield became the roof. I just wanted to know my husband where abouts. I was told he was helivac (emergency medical helicopter) to shock trauma. I am a registered nurse therefore; I knew that this could not be good. I raced to the hospital and my husband had been resuscitated x 1 already. My tears were pouring like rain. I could fill a house by then. I was praying like I had never prayed before.
My husband suffered a pelvic fracture, he was greatly losing blood. He also sustained damages to his lungs. He needed immediate surgery. I told the doctors that he was a full code. This meant that they needed to do everything they could and knew to save his life. My husband made it out of surgery but we were still in grave danger. I was praying. He was intubated but that was not enough. He started dying, blood was everywhere. I am used to this and I find myself in the mist of it all. The doctors and nurses initiated another set of CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). From 2am-7am, Smain had been resuscitated x 4. He was placed on an eckemo because intubation alone was not enough. This machine works as an external lung and heart to keep the circulation going. At least that is what I was told. His kidneys started failing. Blood transfusion was started. In fact, the blood transfusion had been initiated in the OR (operating room). From 2am-12pm, Smain received about 30units of blood.
Within 2 days he had received about 80units of blood. I was really scared and only voiced this to my mom. I refused to leave the hospital. I was sleeping on the floor along with my sister-in-law in the visitors waiting area. The hospital could not give any room on the unit because every bed was valuable. I did not want to be away from my Smain, my “Sweetie”. When I got put out of his room, I go back and pray, I present every part of his body in pain and anguish to my God. By the third day, which was a Tuesday, Smain went for another surgery. I still did not know what happened at the accident scene. I was on my knees and he made it through. The doctors said to me, I don’t know what your family is doing but keep doing it. We were all praying for healing. Thursday, I was sitting beside Smain and telling him that I love him. I told him that God would heal him and all he did was cried. All I saw were tears rolling down his cheeks. I knew he could feel my presence, and touch even though he was in a comma. I tried to be strong when I was around him. I did not want him to hear me cry and give up. I said to him, Sweetie, why are you crying? I love you and I always will no matter what. God will heal you for me. His sister was also talking to him.
It was about 10 or 11pm. The pulmonologist on call was paged. Everything started to go wrong and it did not look like Smain would survive. They called a code (Code= a medical emergency). They began the 5th and final CPR. I was right at his bedside. I was watching and imagining previous codes that I had been in when others lost loved ones. I was praying to God. I was watching my husband die. With all my knowledge and skills as a nurse, when it came to my own, I was helpless, hopeless, weak, weary, faint, sad, angry, hurt, cold, hot, and losing balance. Unable to stand on my feet because they were so numbed, I dropped to the floor. At that point, I felt like I would pee on myself. My body dropped to the ground because I could no longer hold myself up. I was told that it was the end. My sweet, loving, wonderful, husband Smain Aboubakar Abbo was dead at 0047 (12:47am), on Friday, September 19, 2008. He was only 27 years of age. I started searching for answers to some of my questions about the accident. The first thing I learned was that my husband had been hit by a drunk driver, Wayne Arthur Matabar, while parked on the shoulder. Mr. Matabar had geared off the left lane onto the shoulder of the road hitting my husband car from the rear. He had been put through all of this misery by a drunk driver. He had parked on the shoulder wide enough to hold 2 cars to be safe and because someone made the choice to drink and drive, to be “under the influence”, to “drive while intoxicated”, he took my precious flower, the only one that I loved in the botanic garden.
I started to think about the dreams we had and would have had together. I started to think about the life he had lived as a person. I thought about the number of children we wanted to have and the names we had chosen. I thought about the day we talked about life and death. I thought about his favorite line every time I was angry with him; “Sweetie don’t be mad and refused to talk to me. I could go out and something terrible could happen. You don’t want this to be your last words or actions towards me.” The only good thing I found and chose to call my own was gone with the wind. Smain was 3 classes away from his bachelor degree in accounting. He was majoring in accountant and his manor was business administration. I thought about the day we discussed with my neighbors on the porch about his CPA exam and what he had hoped to achieve. He would have completed December of 2008 but instead, a drunk driver shatter our lives and he was taken away September 19, 2008. I thought about his parents, his brothers and his sisters and the respect and love they share for each other. I thought about his faith and his love for God. I started to think this life was so unfair to me. The void that is in my heart, I don’t know when it will ever be filled. I am not sure if I will ever be able to move past the mental picture of Smain’s death. I cannot move past the last resuscitation. No one tried to shield me from that mental anguish and pain. The nurses and doctors expected me to be brave and stand and watch because I was a fellow colleague. What they failed to realized, I was on the other side of the table and not at work. All I kept hearing was, she is a nurse, and she can handle it. No one can ever handle the death of a love one, especially a husband.
Today, I am 26 and in 2 more days will be 27. That is why I chose the story of another, who experienced something so tragic at 26 years old; to share with you. Her mother and three children were killed by a repeat offender and mine was a first timer. There is no time that it is acceptable to drink and drive; there is no time that it is acceptable to “drive while intoxicated” or “drive under the influence”. Every single injury and death caused by DUI or DWI is totally preventable. The people that are driving on the roads and those streets have someone they belong to. No one is an outcast. They are just like you. When you are drunk or when you are impaired and decide to make that choice to drive, think about your unique situation. Ask yourself, who am I? If you start to get answers that you are a father, a son, a daughter, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a nice, a granddaughter, a friend or whatever name to which you associate your relationship, I want you to remember that the consequences of your actions will have a major impact on those lives around you, and the lives of those who are injured or killed by actions. See everybody else on those roads and streets as you would see yourself. I pray that the man who hit Smain and his family will never experience the hurt and pain that our family experiences daily. I pray that another woman, mother, father, sister, brother, and in-laws will never lose someone as valuable as Smain to someone “driving under the influence or someone driving while intoxicated”.
It is illegal in all 50 states to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08% or greater. I like the fact that we have a set value but every individual knows him or herself. You may feel impair before even reaching this value. Get to understand yourself, your body, and know your limits. Every state has different laws. For example, some states collect taxes and others don’t. BAC of 0.08% or greater is unique and universal to all states. This shows the significance and the message that MADD and SAAD and other organizations like these will continue to sent nationally. DUI or DWI remains a serious national problem that tragically affects thousands of victims annually. I am sure you have heard, “teach them while they are young”; “each one, reach one.” If we can follow any of these, we will be able to decrease the statistics and numbers yearly. We will prevent families and friends from being or becoming a part of a statistic. Protect lives by never driving if you think, or anyone else thinks, that you might have had too much to drink or had taking a drug that will impair your driving. Also, don’t let anyone else drive under these conditions. Be a brother’s keeper. Let us treat people the way we will want to be treated. Do not be control by your drinks. You need to take control of your decisions and actions because every move you make from consumption will have a consequence; be it good or bad. Some choices may be detrimental to you or someone. Every choice to drive while intoxicated or under the influence, will affect someone; this includes your close family members and best friends. For every action or decision, there will be a consequence. It is stated in the book of Proverb 20:1 that “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”