It has been a week of horror as we watched the media light up with the devastating news of a school in Nairobi collapsing on our young ones while in class, killing eight of them and leaving scores in hospital in unstable condition.
We have castigated, pointed fingers and ranted on social media, calling for instant justice for the children. However, a new week rolls in, the anger dissipates and the news becomes old as juicier scandals take centre stage and the press moves on. The pain remains a searing hot reality for the children’s loved ones who will continue to seek justice, even as they bid them farewell.
There may be a thousand ways to die, but few can measure up to the horror of being crushed to death or being buried alive under stone and mortar and watching yourself die slowly as your lungs fail to expand and take in air. This is what these young children went through. It is sad that we are making a habit of putting our children in harm’s way in the most unimaginable methods.
ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS
Children have drowned during the infamous holiday school trips while taking boat rides in lakes without life jackets. Children have met their deaths in school buses while travelling on our roads when they should be at home enjoying their recess. Now we have brought death closer home, in the one space they are meant to be safe — school.
What does death by drowning mean? It means that an 11-year old will be dragged down underwater while incapable of swimming or where even their swimming skills in a swimming pool will not match up to the angry rolling waves mother nature sends out when she is upset.
The little boy will panic at the loss of control and will instinctively open his mouth to scream. In so doing, he will draw in water into his lungs, which will take up the space for air within the lung alveoli and effectively seal off the alveolar surface where oxygen and carbondioxide are exchanged. This experience is excruciatingly painful and those who survive it will never be comfortable with water bodies of any kind. The airway irritation results in pain from the nasal cavity all the way to the lungs and the chest feels like it is on fire. Death sets in quickly and as little as five minutes is all it takes.
In collapsing buildings, the debris that rains on the poor victims does not discriminate. All within range are affected. Death is usually as a result of polytrauma (multiple injuries in one body). The bones are broken, the flesh is torn, crushed or bruised and whatever little thread of hope remaining could be pinned underneath a heap of very heavy rubble.
Broken bones bleed fairly heavily. Further, if the fracture sustained is compound (with an associated soft tissue and skin injury), the bleeding can be extensive enough to cause death. The pain involved is unimaginable, as limbs are grotesquely positioned due to the impact. Joints may be completely dislocated out of their sockets.
Flying debris can cause injury to soft tissues that is life-threatening. Key organs such as the eye can sustain penetrating injuries with shards of glass lodging in the delicate tissue. Cut wounds to the face and scalp can bleed a river.
Brain injury may result from heavy impact to the head that will cause skull fractures and injury to the underlying brain matter. It may also occur as the child sustains a fall, landing on the head. The force with which the brain is shaken within the bony cage causes injury with bleeding into the brain or resultant oedema that results in increased intracranial pressures. By the time anyone can sift through the debris and reach the child, the increased intracranial pressure may have easily caused loss of consciousness and resultant death.
Chest injuries are just as devastating. Trapping the rib cage under debris means the casualty is unable to breathe well as the lungs are restricted from expanding during breathing. Furthermore, the poor child will only manage to draw in dust without clean air. This is just as bad as having someone constrict the child’s neck and she chokes to death.
Even worse, is when the impact to the chest wall causes multiple ribs to fracture. They instantly become weapons that can puncture the lungs, causing one to drown in their own blood. Worse still, the broken ribs can puncture the heart, causing an instant cardiac tamponade. One would be long gone before the first responders arrive at scene.
Our children died painfully. It is worth noting that these were fully preventable deaths. No parent should have to bury their child as a result of someone else’s greed. As a country we should not permit our trauma statistics to include a body count of children barely out of diapers!