Healthy Living

Victim of Accident Caused by Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea Settles

Victim of Accident Caused by Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea Settles

It's no secret that undiagnosed sleep apnea can put patients in a state of fatigue, increasing their risk for workplace accident. We saw this in September 2016, when a train crashed in Hoboken gravely injured a woman on the platform.

The crash involved a train slamming into the terminal at a speed that was twice as normal, killing one person, Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, and injuring more than 100 others. Fabiola left behind a child, who was in daycare on that day, and a husband, who moved back to Brazil after the accident.

Twenty-four year old Megan McGuinness was another victim of the crash, however, she was not fatally injured.

The young woman was riding the New Jersey transit train, making her way to the Hoboken train from Pearl River, New York, to go to Pace University. The train crashed into the terminal just as Megan was waiting for her connection, injuring her, alongside many others. After the accident, inspectors investigated the possible causes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an official statement, saying that the accident was caused by the train operator’s undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, which caused him to fall asleep at the controls and crash into the terminal.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by the obstruction of the person’s airway during sleep. Those who suffer from this disease will, on several occasions, stop breathing while they're asleep, for periods that could last from a few seconds to minutes. As a result, the patient’s brain does not get enough oxygen, which leads to symptoms such as daytime fatigue, drowsiness, headaches, and increased risk of accidents if the patient operates dangerous machinery on a daily basis.

Everyone is prone to suffering from sleep apnea. However, there are several risk factors that can increase the risk of developing the disorder, such as being male, overweight, over 40, having a large neck size, having large tonsils, a large tongue, having a family history of the disease, or suffering from nasal obstructions, among others.

Despite its symptoms and risk factors, sleep apnea can be treated with the use of a continuous positive airway pressure mask, which is a device that goes over the patient’s mouth and nose and is worn during sleep. The mask pumps oxygen at a determined pressure straight into the patient’s airway, preventing their airway from collapsing. The problem with sleep apnea, however, lies with the diagnosis. Though it's simple to screen for it, it takes some time.

Most people with sleep apnea might not be even aware that they have it because most of the symptoms appear while they're asleep.

Read on to learn more about Megan's injuries from the crash in Hoboken.

Photo source: Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo/Fox 5 NY