Holiday excesses coupled with the winter haze that most parts of India witness during winters results in higher number of accidents caused by falls and road traffic accidents.
More than a lakh fall victim to road accidents in India every year, out of which nearly 50% are head injuries. Due to improper facilities, one of every six brain victims dies as they do not get assistance during 'Golden Hour'- within one hour of the accident. In Delhi alone, an average of five people die and hundreds break their bones every day in accidents.
Of all the road traffic accidents, nearly 25% are attributed to drunk driving. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences' Trauma Centre, which is the largest trauma care centre in India, gets about 150 cases daily, among which one in five victims - mostly in the 18-45 age group - test positive for alcohol. The numbers rise in cold weather.
Experts advise basic safety precautions, such as not using the cellphone or earphones while walking or driving, using seatbelts in cars and helmets on two-wheelers, and not drinking and driving.
"Most accident victims sustain severe head injuries that are fatal, or even if a person survives, result in life-long paralysis," said Dr Deepak Aggarwal, a senior neurosurgeon at the trauma centre. 'Alcohol increases the severity of the injury and the treatment outcome in drunken patients is also not as good as compared to non-drinkers.'
Unfortunately, there is not much rehabilitative care for the head or spinal cord injury victims in India. When his son, Shivraj Singh, had a polo accident in 2005, Maharaja Gajsingh II of Jodhpur, had to take him to the US for rehabilitation therapy. "He recovered and is leading a normal life today, all because he got specialist care," he says.
To ensure everyone has similar access to care, Gajsingh II founded The Indian Head Injury Foundation (IHIF) in 2007 for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury, and to provide neuro-rehabilitation to patients suffering from severe injuries in collaboration with agencies such as Brain Trauma Foundation of USA and New York University School of Medicine.
'There are three parts to this problem: preventive, protective and immediate medical care. I believe if we focus well on the first two, the need for the third will reduce significantly,' said the Gajsingh II. His foundation also provides trauma crash course to traffic police personnel, who in accident cases are usually the first responders.
'We need to get a professional team trained in trauma care in almost every hospital. Trauma care should be made a mandatory topic of study in medical education,' said Dr Prasada Rao, senior neurosurgeon at New Delhi's Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, who is one of the core members of the foundation.
According to him, only 15% of the head injury cases require surgery and the rest can be managed with first aid such as airway, breathing and circulation management. 'If we take care of ABC, then there will be no 'D'- death,' he said.