Safety-minded know importance of helmets
Once in awhile, the nature of our work hits home in personal ways. It is no longer just a “statistic.” One of my “children” – a member of Asia Injury Prevention Foundation’s Helmets for Kids program – died in a motorcycle crash in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, during Tet.
Eight-year-old Le Xuan Han was killed while riding with her parents and sister to visit her grandmother.
Mom and dad wore their helmets, but Han and her 7-year old sister, Le Minh Nhu, did not. A drunk driver on another motorcycle smashed into them at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The other driver was killed instantly.
The family was rushed to Cho Ray Hospital with severe injuries. Han’s father, Le Xuan Hung, suffered a broken hip and collapsed lung. He requires additional surgery. Mother Nguyen Thi Xuan Diem suffered severe lacerations of the face and body.
Neither had head injuries. They wore helmets. Sister Nhu suffered a head concussion. No helmet. Han never regained consciousness and died from severe brain damage the next day. No helmet.
We recently met the grieving parents in Ho Chi Minh City. They are understandably still in shock. Diem’s first words to us were “I will never forgive myself! Never forgive myself!”
She had “made an exception” of the children not wearing helmets that day because “we weren’t going very far.” Han’s sister Nhu still doesn’t understand that her sister won’t be coming home again to play. They had been inseparable.
Han’s classmates and teachers also are mourning. Han was one of the top students in her class and had won a number of awards. A bright future lay ahead of her.
I share their pain and loss. She was one of “mine.” Can you imagine if this happened to you?
The tragedy of this story is being repeated throughout Vietnam every day. Parents, most of who now wear helmets regularly, are failing to protect their children. Every day, more children are killed in traffic accidents while their parents survive. Every day, more parents must face the grief of a dead or brain-dead child.
Despite the incredible victory on Dec. 15, when 99 percent of motorbike riders began wearing helmets, child helmet-wearing rates are rapidly declining. It is now estimated to be less than 5 percent in the cities and lower in rural areas.
Something is wrong. These children are our future.
I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that Han’s death is not in vain. The suffering caused from traffic accident head injuries is needless and every death caused from not wearing a helmet is unacceptable.
I call upon the relevant authorities and the police to take steps to close the loopholes and ambiguity of the helmet-wearing law. The existing helmet penalty regulation must be revised immediately, and any driver carrying an unhelmeted rider under the age of 14 must be fined.
This will work. I call upon parents, teachers and all caregivers to take strict action to ensure that all children wear helmets at all times. No excuses. No exceptions.
The Vietnam Helmet Wearing Coalition, which I head, will refocus its upcoming Phase III Helmet Wearing efforts on educating parents and teachers about the need for children to wear helmets at all times, on all roads. Parents must understand that there is no medicine for brain damage.
Like a vaccination, a helmet is the only known prevention to save a child’s life. They must understand that there is no difference between an adult head and a child head. Both need protection.
All the love in the world cannot bring back a dead child. Don’t gamble with your child’s life. Don’t lose your child forever. Put a helmet on their head.
Asia Injury Prevention Foundation
Helmets for Kids
Clean slate erasing noted experience
Re Robert Robb’s Feb. 25 column, “Is Clinton really ready from Day One?”:
The nationwide presidential campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton are the largest, most complex, resource-consuming, people-motivating and open-ended efforts over which either of them has ever afore presided.
Obama’s has been an inspirational model of good governance. Clinton’s is a fractious mess. How come her highly touted experience did not make a difference from Day One?
West Branch, Iowa
A salute to Air Force cadets keeping cadence
I recently attended a lecture at the Air Force Academy as part of the annual National Character and Leadership Symposium. The speaker was U.S. Rep. Zack Wamp of Tennessee.
In addition to our NCLS group, most of the Cadet Wing was in attendance. Wamp gave a great speech and, near the end, he used a quote by John Stuart Mill that may be familiar:
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
Before Wamp got to the second sentence, 2,000 cadets completed the entire quote out loud. Wamp said, “I guess you know that one.”
Even though I am not a supporter of our current war in Iraq, this event almost brought tears to my eyes.
These letters to the editor appear online and not in the Tucson Citizen’s print edition.