Driving while undiagnosed: The cardiac killer on the road
During my research on the cardiac arrhythmias over the last few years, I have examined several cases of single car and even multi car accidents. The accidents most often involve one vehicle losing control and hitting a tree or going over an embankment. Sometimes a vehicle will lose control and hit other vehicles. Often these have tragic consequences. One of my dear friends was involved in one of these accidents where she hit or was hit by a tractor trailer. She lost her life in this episode. I will present my findings in a few other cases that seem to indicate that our serial killer, sudden cardiac death, is the likely culprit.
The arrhythmia often gives no warning signs. It just strikes…. while asleep, driving a vehicle, or just getting up from the table after eating. Many persons have a mild attack that only causes a temporary loss of consciousness. These get diagnosed as syncope that often finally is found to be a cardiac arrhythmia. These get treatment that is currently best handled via an implantable pacemaker. If you are one of these, count your lucky stars. Many times the event strikes much stronger causing death in an instant without any warning whatsoever. If the event itself did not cause death, then even the milder one can be fatal, depending on the activity engaged in at the time of the event. Swimming, driving a vehicle, walking down stairs, working on a roof, riding a bike and especially if using certain illicit drugs or even prescription medications, all can indeed be dangerous and fatal if one has one of the arrhythmias lurking undiagnosed and untreated. It is imperative therefore that it becomes a part of our analyses as the cause of death at autopsy or other investigation. The cardiac killer can strike at any age. Even infants in the crib are not immune.
The killer struck my family. I never got to meet my grandfather because of it. My mother stated that he ate dinner one evening and while standing up from his seat he collapsed to unconsciousness and never revived. This happened in the late 1940s before CPR was common practice. Then later, my mother’s half brother had a sudden heart attack in his thirties and died. My mother even told me of the story of her older sister who was an infant at the time, who was found dead in bed sleeping with my mother’s mother. This was my grandmother who thought that she had slept so hard that she rolled over and smothered the child. She was in fact pregnant with my mother at the time of the incident. It was indeed a case of SIDS which is also caused by this cardiac malady.
A deputy sheriff on his way to a call was found on the side of the road deceased from an accident where his car ran off the road and hit a tree. An evaluation revealed the cardiac condition in his phenotype. A local pastor’s wife was killed in an accident where a vehicle lost control. A FedEx truck on a routine delivery crossed a median and slammed into a bus. My cousin who worked for FedEx was contacted to get information on the driver. It was found that he too probably had had an arrest and died at the wheel causing the vehicle to hit the other vehicle. His phenotype indicated the condition.
This last case is a very important red flag event that presents an ominous situation for drivers on the streets and highways of our country and elsewhere.
It is not just texting that is a danger, but also those truck drivers and others who have this condition and do not know it. These present an even greater danger due to the great size of the massive commercial vehicles. Since completing my research into this phenomenon I am more wary while driving and even sitting at red lights. There have been cases of drivers being struck from behind at stop lights by out of control tractor trailers and other vehicles. Being distracted by your cell phone is therefore increasing your risk of having a deadly accident by not watching for out of control vehicles. The driver who collided with Tracy Morgan may not have dozed off as was reported. He could have “dozed off” from a non fatal arrest event or even a seizure. All commercial drivers must past thorough physical examinations to get the license to drive big trucks. Let’s hope someone will recognize the need for this cardiac analysis for those who are at risk for harming or killing themselves along with many others in an accident.
So, for the time being, put your cell phone down while driving. Be alert for other drivers who may lose consciousness and hit you or worse. This scenario and risk applies to other forms of transportation as well, including airline pilots, train engineers and school or other bus drivers.