Content warning: death, injury, drugs and alcohol
*A pseudonym has been used for protective reasons.
On the 29/06/2020, it’ll be four years since my incredible, talented cousin Mark*, left this world unexpectedly. I will never forget the day just before some of my A-Level exams when my grandmother walked into my room, woke me up and passed me the phone with a shake in her hand and all the colour gone from her face. I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up the phone, but I didn’t expect to be presented with the news that Mark, aged 20 had been involved in a high-speed road traffic accident (RTC). I was upset of course when I was told the news, but I never imagined that it was going to be as serious as it turned out to be. All I knew at this point was that it was serious, but that one person walked out of the car. This filled me with so much hope! How bad can it be if one of Mark’s friends literally used his legs and walked away? I was sure they were just saying it was serious to be extra safe. I was wrong. When the hospital contacted me, less than 2 hours later, I was told he was on E level, critical care. As a soon-to-be nursing student, I knew at that point that Mark’s injuries were severe. I went straight to the hospital, met Mark’s brother (my cousin), and my grandparents, who had looked after Mark as well as my uncle (his dad), for years. What I saw with my naked eyes is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I didn’t even recognise my own cousin; whom I saw on a weekly basis. Nobody was asking questions, everyone was just crying, shouting and looking at Mark. I put on a brave face and spoke with the nurses and doctors looking after him, desperately trying to figure out if he would be okay. Unfortunately, after lots of prayer and horrific invasive tests, Mark was found brain dead, due to a car piece impaling his brain stem. His injuries were incompatible with life. I’ve never written about this before because PTSD is real, and every June since the accident, I have the image of Mark in the critical care unit. I question everything that was said and done as if we, as his family could have prevented this.
So why am I telling this story? Well, the accident was caused by driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Mark was a backseat passenger. He was the only one who didn’t come out alive. His other two friends, of course, must live with the trauma of the accident and losing their friend, but in all honesty, Mark should have never died in the first place. I’ve always wanted to advocate against driving under the influence in schools, since he passed, however I know right now I can’t. It’s still very fresh. But every time I hear about another drink driving accident, I want to SCREAM. Every time any of my friends even think about getting in a car after a drink, I want to shake them, show them the graphic photos of Mark and his accident scene and get them to just WAKE UP!
I guess as summer is approaching, I just want everyone I know and even people who I don’t know to really think about if it is appropriate to drive. Is there a chance you could drink alcohol at the location you are travelling to? Have you had substances in your body that affect your ability to safely drive? Would you put your best friend, your mum, your dad, your dog in a car with someone who is pissed out of their mind? I don’t think so. It’s a real easy thing to get right. We all know and are told growing up that you shouldn’t set foot in a car if you could be impaired. I mean gosh, I was on prescribed drugs that apparently I could drive on, and nearly crashed because of it!
I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a drink, because I love a good drink with my friends, but please just try and stop and think before you a) drive a car and b) get in a car with someone who has drunk. PLEASE be that ‘sensible one’, who calls their friends out, and gets them a taxi home. I mean, God, take their keys off them if you must. Just don’t let yourself or your loved ones be in a vulnerable situation whereby you might never see them again; because let me tell you, it ripped my family apart, and although every anniversary of Mark’s death is a tiny bit easier, it doesn’t take away the pain.
Please think, don’t be a dick, and don’t drink and drive.
Photo courtesy of Samuele Errico Piccarini