The bottom of the car, where julien passed. Maximum height clearance of 10 cm.
The teacher immediately ran with Julien in her arms to the nearby Ritan children hospital, from where she contacted us.
What were cars doing on a school playground for children? The school’s explanation is that due to construction around the campus, there is no readily available parking spot for the school’s staff. To avoid walking from nearby parking lots, the school’s management and principal teachers prefer to park and maneuver where the children play and rest.
This was however not the first incident, and concerns had already been expressed to the school that cars in the playground represented a serious hazard for the safety of the school children. A few months prior a children playing was reaching for a wandering playing ball under a parked car when the vehicle’s driver was preparing to drive away. Another teacher saw the situation and stopped the car from driving at the last minute, avoiding a terrible accident. The incident was brought up to the school’s management and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) made repeated requests to ban all cars from the playground. The request was denied and ignored, making possible the conditions for Julien’s accident.
Immediately after the accident Julien lay on the ground with visible and obvious head and neck injuries. The first reaction from the school staff was to pick-up and lift Julien from the ground. While the teacher meant well and did what she thought was best, it points to a serious lack of awareness and preparedness of first response in case of an accident. Any basic first emergency response training teaches that patient with head, neck or back injuries should never be moved until professional medical staff with appropriate equipment arrives on the scene.
Julien sustained the following external injuries: a 2.5 cm long wound at the back of his skull; trauma to the left half of his face which was scratched and swollen; a patch of skin (4 x 5 cm) on his shoulder was scraped away; and scratches and bruises on his legs, back, and feet.
Internal injuries: lesions and internal bleeding of both lungs including a pneumothorax (perforation of the lungs), a small hematoma (internal bleeding) in the brain, internal bleeding around the eyes and ears, a crushed lower
back vertebra, and dislocation of the top 3 cervicals. He miraculously suffered no apparent mental impairments or neurological damages.
After initial examination and stabilization, we decided to move Julien to the Beijing New Century Children Hospital by ambulance (where 18 months earlier Julien had been very well treated for Kawasaki disease). Julien’s mother Hong was flying that morning to Guangzhou, and she was notified of this accident only when landing in Guangzhou airport at 2pm.
Julien never lost conscience and always remained fully aware of the situation. He was however in great pain from the multiple injuries, especially the neck, head and lower back. Adding insult to injury, the neck support brace placed on him rested directly on his shoulder wound, and he had to rest his head exactly where he had his rear head wound and stitches.
He was ordered to rest on his back for several weeks wearing a neck brace. His face injuries improved but his neck and back pains remained acute. We camped at the hospital day and night to comfort and encourage him, pushing doctors to try to get a clearer and full picture of his condition.
On Thursday November 18th, a doctor from SOS International in Beijing came to the hospital to evaluate Julien’s condition and confer with the Chinese doctors. His recommendation was that there were too many unknowns regarding his cervical condition, potential additional skull fractures, and that he should be evacuated to a center of medical excellence.
A parallel consultation (based on the CT Scan – X rays sent to Switzerland) with a Swiss specialist came to the same conclusion. His neck injuries were the most troublesome, and if not treated correctly immediately, could lead to permanent disabilities.
We took the decision on Friday morning Nov 19th to evacuate Julien to Switzerland where he could get the best possible care. We contacted REGA (a Swiss air ambulance and evacuation services www.swiss-air-ambulance.com) and they immediately dispatched a plane with a medical team.
The school management was opposed to a medical evacuation and the principal told us that any decisions regarding medical treatments should be made by joint accord of the parents AND the school.
The plane landed on Sunday Nov 21st, and after a mandatory rest for the pilots, we left for Switzerland Monday Nov 22nd.
Julien’s condition and treatment
Upon arrival at the University Hospital of Lausanne CHUV, Julien was further examined by a pediatrician orthopedist and pediatrician neurosurgeon and underwent an MRI examination. They confirmed a C0 / C1 dislocation (atlantooccipital dislocation: a misalignment of the base of the skull and the first cervical): http://harms-spinesurgery.com/src/plugin.php?m=harms.FRA03.03E
Julien was immediately put into “extension” (i.e. lying down on a special bed and his head is pulled upwards using a special head support and a set of pulleys and weights) for 5 days.
The doctor confirmed that it is a rare injury, as most of the time the patient does not survive the cervical dislocation, which is typically fatal on the spot. If they do survive, they often remain tetraplegic (paralyzed from the neck down) and sometimes under artificial ventilation for the rest of their lives.
Julien spent a total of 4 weeks flat and bed ridden without moving at all. After this time a special neck brace was tailored made from him, using a Swiss technology which scanned his head to make a computer 3D model to produce a polymer solid model. The neck brace allowed him to move and get out of the hospital a few weeks later.
Julien stayed at home with his grandparents in Switzerland to recover for 3 months, receiving home schooling in the afternoon. 3 months after the accident in mid February, he was finally able to take out his neck brace and resume a normal life while limiting his physical activities.
He suffers psychologically as well, having regularly panic attacks when he sees parked or slow moving cars. He underwent psychiatric treatment while in Switzerland.
The school’s reaction and after month
Despite having various school staff come and go at the hospital, and entering the patient’s room without warning, we never received any explanation as to what exactly happened, the circumstances of the accident, and even how Julien was hit. The school management met with us on several occasions and told us it would be best for this incident not to be publicized and communicated.
Frustrated by this lack of information and transparency, we took the initiative to report the accident to the police (which had not been previously notified). The police conducted an investigation and a reenactment on the premises of the school the day before we left (pictures above of the car). Only then did we finally understand what really happened and the exact circumstances of the accident, which were much worse than we initially thought.
How could the driver not see a kid and a heap of clothes on the playground? Why didn’t the driver reverse out instead of doing a large circle among children playing at the school recess? Was he completely distracted / under
medication / or even drunk? We still do not know. However he still works at the school as a driver.
Security cameras are constantly monitoring and video recording the school’s playground. When we asked for the tape of that day as to see the accident, we were told that the camera was out of order that specific day.
The following week after our arrival in Switzerland, contacted by parents as to Julien’s whereabouts we realized that nobody knew that an accident had happened at the school, and the cars were still coming in and out of the
playground as if nothing had happened.
We informed several parents and the PTA. The initial outrage from parents forced the school to accept to limit the speed of cars on the playground. It is only after a tense meeting between the PTA and the school management
and under threat of media intervention that they agreed to ban cars from the playground during school times.
Upon our return to Beijing, the school told us we had to follow the “Chinese legal system”, that is we have to sue the school in court, if we wanted to get any form of compensation and that any cost incurred out of China would not be covered. We also discovered on this occasion that the accident had not been reported to the higher authorities in the education bureau which governs the school.
Julien has needlessly suffered excruciating pain and trauma, and we as parents have experienced something that no parent should have to – the horror of learning of your child’s accident followed by hour-by-hour discoveries of new, life threatening injuries, compounded by the frustration of dealing by the lack of transparency or accountability of the school authorities who have appeared more concerned with covering things up than with addressing the causes and ensuring that no such accident occurs again.
We have lost trust in the management of FangCaoDi, and have moved Julien to a new school, where he has a lot of catching-up to do.
We hope that this accident can at least serve as a call to action that the school must take children’s safety more seriously. Measures we recommend include implementing CPR and First Aid training for teachers, strict traffic control regulations, and regular monitoring of safety procedures.
Yet the school’s management reaction has been to initially cover up the incident and then limit any changes to the
You read too much depressive news :-)
Imagine, a school in China behaving exactly the way I would expect a school in China to behave!
Imagine, a school in China behaving exactly the way I would expect a school in China to behave!
i will find a time to finish this story
It's not a story. Julien's father is a friend of my friend. I cannot even imagine what will happen if things like this happen to my kid. What if Julien's parents cannot afford the treatment (flying to Switzerland for example)? Then the kid is dead, murdered in school!!
The camera was out of order.... The camera in China is never in order when accident happens... Feel so sad that I am a Chinese and this is my country... :(
I don't know how to post Julien's pictures here. Below please find a link to the English + Chinese version of the accident as well as pictures FYI. Thanks!
Chinese people, while usually quite considerate, become total solipsists behind the wheel of a car. As aformer professional driver, I simply cannot understand how a person could fail to see a child laying in front of a car. A thoughtless asshole could reverse over an object, but only the monsterously stupid could drive forwards over a prone body