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Accident survivors Anis Mohammed Rafiq, Laura Everest and Mustafa Kuttyassam. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: British expat Laura Everest has had 17 surgeries after being hit by car while on a morning run; father of two Mustafa Kuttyassam went into an 18-day coma after he dozed off while driving and met with an accident; Indian expat Anis Mohammed Rafiq's life changed forever after a nasty bike accident. These are some road accident victims in the UAE who have survived to tell their tale and spread their messages of hope and learning on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims today. 

‘Against the odds, I’ve learnt to thrive’

British expat Laura Everest, director and founder, international best-selling author, said motorists should be severely punished for drinking and driving.

“For if they cause an accident and hurt someone, it is life changing and damaging. I am a living example of that,” she told Gulf News.

Everest recalled how unexpectedly her life was brought to an abrupt halt following a shattering accident eight years ago in Dubai.

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Laura Everest says pain is a part of her life and she faces two more major surgeries in the next couple of weeks, but she does not let it bog her down. Image Credit: Supplied

“Hit by a car whilst out on a morning run, I faced the fact that I might never walk again. My whole perspective of professional and personal success was challenged and re-framed, and my life has been completely redefined in ways I would never have imagined,” she said.

Everest has had 17 surgeries since the incident.

“I’m slowly being rebuilt with titanium. But against the odds, I’ve learnt to thrive. My recovery after each setback has been an inspirational journey of resilience and the recognition that we all have a hidden reserve of strength that we can dig into, which makes us far more capable than we think, and so much stronger than we might have believe. By consciously levering my strengths, I have achieved extraordinary things and beaten medical expectations,” she said.

Everest said it is almost impossible to know how anyone will react when they are put through a terrible situation like this.

“What I have learned is that you don’t need to be a superhero to survive and flourish in life – even when all the chips are stacked against you. You and I may face different demons but they challenge us in similar ways. When life kicks you down, it does not have to determine the outcome of your life. It is said that we have to do hard things to grow but success in life is not an accident. It takes effort. Life presents us with an infinite number of choices. What’s key is to recognise, is that you always have control of what you do next. Even in the darkest, most challenging of circumstances, you still have the choice of how you see that situation and how you choose to respond. Your success in everything you undertake is a result of your mindset and your attitude is your choice,” she said, offering a message of hope and resilience for accident survivors.

Everest added that she is still work in progress.

“Pain is a part of my life and I face two more major surgeries in the next couple of weeks but I don’t allow it to reduce my life. I don’t want to just exist, I want to feel that I’m living my life with purpose and I’ve learned that no matter what the universe hurls at you. I also appreciate everything that brings joy into my life, so much more.These testing experiences have enabled me to clarify my purpose and what matters most to me and empowered me to focus on where I can create meaning and impact, to enable others to flourish,” she said.

‘Don’t drive if you’re sleepy’

Mustafa Kuttyassam, 54, recovered miraculously from an accident that left him in an 18-day coma in 2002. Then the father of two young girls, including a one-week-old daughter, Kuttyasam had been driving to Dubai when he dozed off at the wheel for a split second.

“I work as a driver, and had made the trip hundreds of times already. But on that fateful day, I was fighting sleep, and did not make a stop. I dozed off, and the next thing I knew, I was in a hospital bed and 18 days had slipped by,” Kuttyassam remembered.

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Mustafa Kuttyassam, 54, recovered miraculously from an accident that left him in an 18-day coma in 2002. Image Credit: Supplied

Surrounded by well-wishers, medical staff and friends, Kuttyassam learnt that he had crashed the Land Cruiser he had been driving into a pick-up truck in front of him. The car had upended on the road, leaving him with injuries in his lungs.

“When I came to, I was told that I needed procedures to remove the clotted blood from my lungs. I was just thankful that I had survived,” he said.

Kuttyassam went on to recover, and is today the father of three grown daughters. He has also continued to work as a driver, and has not had a single traffic accident since.

“I have always been a careful driver, but that one stray incident nearly cost me my life. This is why I urge other motorists never to become inattentive on the roads, and to park their vehicle and take a nap if they are sleepy on the roads. Take it from someone who has been driving in the UAE for 25 years,” Kuttyassam said.

‘Respect two wheelers on the road’

Indian expat Anis Mohammed Rafiq, 32, who works as a videographer in Dubai had a nasty bike accident two years ago. He cannot forget that day, as his life changed forever.

Rafiq who worked as a draughtsman for a construction firm, said, it was utter disrespect by a motorist to give him way that caused the accident. Rafiq was thrown off his bike, and the accident left him partially paralysed on both hands. His left wrist bone was crushed to pieces. Afterwards, he was forced to resign his job, and head home to India for physiotherapy treatment.

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Anis Mohammed Rafiq, 32, who works as a videographer in Dubai had a nasty bike accident two years ago Image Credit: Supplied

“I recovered by 50 per cent in India. The rest of my condition improved after coming to Dubai. I have been regularly taking physiotherapy. I also started going to the gym for regular fitness workouts, and slowly, my hand movement started improving,” he explained.

Recalling the accident, Rafiq said that both his hands had been left fractured, and ‘nearly dead’.

“What was really sad was that I was a good worker. The company would always pick me for any work they wanted. But I was forced to resign as I could not take a long vacation,” he said.

“As the UAE marks World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims”, I sincerely feel for victims and their families. My message to motorists on the road, avoid any kind of road rage as in a split second, someone’s life can be destroyed. And respect the rights of two wheelers,” Rafiq added.

Six months after his accident, Rafiq returned to the UAE.

“The day I came out of the hospital. I started treatments. My wrist bone was fully damaged, and I now have an artificial bone fixed on my left wrist,” he said.

But the accident also helped Rafiq find his passion.

“It just so happened it was connected to my passion, which is videography,” he said.

Rafiq added that mental strength is key when recovering from an accident.

“Don’t give up on yourself. Give your best to stand up again and do what you love doing most,” he said as a message for other accident survivors.

Police step up awareness campaigns

To commemorate the occasion, traffic authorities have paid tribute to victims, and have also urged motorists to adhere to save driving practices despite the availability of swift emergency responses.

Cellphone use while driving is one of the biggest causes of road accidents. Image Credit: Shutterstock

According to the Abu Dhabi Police and Dubai Police, here are some of the top causes behind serious traffic incidents:

  • driver inattention, including due to cellphone use
  • speeding
  • failing to maintain safe distances from other vehicles, known as tailgating
  • sudden swerving

Abu Dhabi Police stressed that traffic safety must always be a shared effort, and urged road users to adhere to the traffic law.

Dubai Police added that intensive efforts by traffic departments, using advanced technologies and the country’s network of roads, has helped reduce the number of road deaths in Dubai from 30 people for each 100,000 more than 15 years ago to three to four deaths for every 100,000 in recent years.

In Sharjah, the General Command of Sharjah Police, represented by Al Buhaira Comprehensive Police Station, in cooperation with the Sharjah City Municipality, launched a campaign to ensure the safety of cyclists, bike riders and other road users.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammad Ali bin Haider, Acting Head of the Buhaira Comprehensive Police Station, stressed the importance of organising the campaign and called on bikers to take due precautions while on the road.

The Fujairah Police General Command also participated in the commemoration of the International Day for Road Accident Victims to show solidarity with those injured in traffic accidents, visiting accident victims at Fujairah Hospital.

Colonel Saleh Mohammed Al Dhanhani, director of the Fujairah Traffic and Patrols Department, explained that the occasion highlights the seriousness of traffic accidents, and their resulting material and human losses. He also stressed the importance of concerted efforts and cooperation of all institutions and stakeholders to reduce accidents, and to spread the culture of commitment to ensure the safety of all road users.

Did you know?

November 21, 2021: The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was started by RoadPeace, a UK-based charity for road crash victims, in 1993. In 2005, the United Nations endorsed it as a global day to be observed every third Sunday in November each year, as the “appropriate acknowledgement for victims of road traffic injuries and their families”. Since then, the World Day of Remembrance has been observed and promoted worldwide by many governments, international agencies and groups. WHO and the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration accordingly encourage all road safety stakeholders to commemorate the World Day of Remembrance, and pay homage to those who have died on the world’s roads, advocate for better support for victims and bereaved families, and promote action to save lives.