Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The harmful effects of sleep deprivation: Eddie pay attention!!

I think I am writing this particular blog post because I'm feeling a bit guilty. Let me explain. As you know, I went to Florida at Christmas with my family for a two week vacation. I was lucky enough to spend some time with my cousins Eddie and David and their respective wives Hashina and Hamo.

Eddie and David are both younger than me by at least 10 years. Since I left Guyana when I was 16, I did not know them as children. About 13 years ago, I went to Guyana for a visit and met both Eddie and David but did not communicate much since that time. My parents on the other hand, have spent time both at Eddie's and David's home in Florida. Last year when Dad was ill, Eddie called quite often and as time progressed and I started sharing the URL for my blog, Eddie would read and post the occasional comment. I have to say that in the last year, we have grown quite close. I'd call or he would and we'd have some long conversations - sometimes lasting a couple of hours. We were getting to know each other in a way that I consider a privilege. Most cousins don't even keep in touch, let alone become friends - which is how I now think of him. My daughters and grandchildren also got to know Eddie for the short time they were in Florida and said that he is so good and can't do enough to please us.

Last Thursday when I went home from work, Mom looked a bit troubled and asked if anyone had called me at work. I wanted to know why she was asking and she said: "Your cousin was in a bad accident and he is in the hospital." I asked which cousin (I have dozens) and what kind of accident. She said Eddie was driving early Wednesday morning and got into an accident with his van. He was in the hospital with serious injuries. I could not explain how awful I felt - for two reasons: 1) Eddie was badly injured; and 2) I recalled a foreshadowing conversation I had with him only a short week before about the dangers of sleep deprivation and driving. Eddie is a courier and one evening while he was driving back from Clearwater to the Orlando airport and then off to Jacksonville, I said that I had observed that he looked extremely tired while I was visiting and he needed to get some serious rest or sleep deprivation will affect his over all health and it will jeopardize his safety and someone else's on the road. I talked about how sleep deprivation affects cognitive and motor performance.
After a good 45 minute conversation, I said that I was not trying to lecture him and I promised that it would be the last such conversation about this as it was only done out of concern for his safety. I said that I would send some articles on sleep deprivation but the accident happened before I could do that.

Eddie does not remember exactly what happened but from other conversations with family members this is what I can surmise so far: It was a foggy early morning on Wednesday. Eddie was called out to do a delivery about 2am. He did that and was on his way to the mosque at about 5am when he was driving in heavy fog and hit the back of a truck which had no tail lights. He could not remember more than that but by the time the police arrived, he was concussed and was taken to hospital. The vehicle is a write-off. Eddie's injuries include a broken left collar bone, a shattered right knee cap and a broken right wrist - along with multiple bruises. He had surgery a few days ago and was sent home yesterday afternoon. Why my guilt? I feel (in retrospect) that our conversation was a kind of premonition (not the kind you want to have) about how badly things could go. In this case, things could have been so much worse but they were not. I don't know if Eddie was tired that morning but I do know that driving while drowsy is as bad impaired driving with a blood alcohol of .05 - that's the equivalent of 1 1/2 drinks. Please click on the links that I provided in this post and read some of the information.

I had to go to Brandon on Friday evening and returned home on Saturday. That was only 2.5 hours but I was paying attention and being as careful as I needed to be. I was not sleep deprived but it was not a restful Friday night. Imagine having only a couple of hours sleep at a time every night and I would not be able to last very long. Eddie I know you will be reading this so please take the advice offered for what it is - our concern for your health and safety. If you discard everything else, please consider that God gave you a clear message to take care of yourself by giving you another chance. Take it make it work and your family - me included - will be there with you. We love you and selfishly, I want more time with you.

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