Six out of every 10 patients at the National Spinal Injury Referral Hospital in Hurlingham, Nairobi, are road crash survivors.
Most of them are Kenyans while the others are from Uganda and Congo.
Many of those undergoing treatment there are either motorcycle riders or their passengers.
The others are mostly pedestrians. Such patients spend about three months at the hospital, Dennis Otwori, the assistant director, medical services, at the facility, said.
“There are about 40 patients on the waiting list,” he said.
“A few years back, the list had 150 patients waiting for critical spinal care services only available here and in two other countries in Africa – Morocco and South Africa.”
The referral hospital was built in 1945 to treat injured World War soldiers and has about 30 beds, but only 25 are actively in use.
At any given time, the beds are fully occupied.
According to Dr Otwori, head and spinal injuries are the most severe injuries a human being can suffer.
“Such injuries, not only caused by road accidents but falls and gunshot wounds, are critical and require intensive care unit or high dependency unit services. They may take many years to heal,” he told the Saturday Nation.
While spinal injuries can be treated at the hospital, some patients end up in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives.
This is particularly challenging for people who were independent but now have to rely on others for support.
This strain is not only physical but also socioeconomic and psychological, especially for those who end up with cuts and scars, which greatly adds to their psychological trauma.
“This is hard, especially for women whose faces are left with scars or missing teeth, it affects them a great deal,” Dr Otwori said.
He said many of the patients with head injuries would have avoided a trip to the hospital if only they had worn helmets.
“Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40 per cent and the risk of severe injury by over 70 per cent,” a World Health Organization report said.
A 2016 survey by the Ministry of Health shows that women who use motorcycle taxis avoid helmets because “they are dirty” and “to avoid messing up their hairstyle”. Some, of course, fail to find fitting helmets.
Tellingly, more than 90 per cent of Kenyans who use motorcycles do not wear helmets when riding on boda bodas even though it is vital in preventing injury or death in the event of a crash.
Each year, road accidents cost the country nearly Sh300 billion in lost lives, hospitalisation costs, loss in productivity and destroyed property.
This is money is enough to build 10 Thika Superhighways or to pay all of Kenya’s 280,000 teachers for at least two years.
Kenyans between the ages of 20 and 44 years are the most at risk of dying or being injured in an accident, with the peak age being 30 to 34.
Saturdays have the highest fatalities followed by Sundays.