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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, June 18, 2004


Hedge your bet, wear a helmet

Guest opinion by Tom McLean

Tom McLean is a senior lieutenant/paramedic for the Ketchum Fire Department.

In my work as a paramedic/firefighter I often marvel at how resilient, and in many other ways, how fragile the human body is. There are pieces of your skull that are nearly as thin as a piece of paper and others that are nearly as strong as steel and take tons of force to break.

When you are involved in an accident, you never know which part of your head you may hit, the paper or the steel.

When I see accidents that could have been prevented, I feel an obligation to let others know what could have been done to prevent or reduce the injury. I think one of the best ways to bring this point home is with a story of a patient encounter that I had.

The patient fell on the bike path while biking. She was not wearing a helmet. She was found by a passer-by. When the passer-by found her, she was unconscious, with her eyes glazed, and a big abrasion and laceration on the side of her head.

It was unknown how she fell; the bike path was straight and there was not a sign that would lead us to believe that something "funny" had happened.

She wasnít breathing well and blood covered her face. We treated immediate problems and transported her to the hospital.

She received a battery of tests, CAT scans, X-rays and lab work. Her family had somehow found out that she had been in an accident and they were in the hospital waiting room, The woman had two small children. Her husband had left his job to come to the hospital. You could see the worry on the kidsí faces as well as her husbandís.

She had not regained consciousness from her accident, even though she was receiving excellent care. She needed to be cared for by a specialist in Boise. A LifeFlight was arranged and she was prepared for the flight.

Her husband was busy caring for the children and arranging for his trip to Boise to be with his wife. He had to inform his boss that he would not be at work while caring for his wife.

She underwent two different surgeries to correct the problems in her brain. She spent two weeks in intensive care recovering. Even though the surgeries went well and she received exceptional care, she ended up with some deficit in her mental capacity. She would require help to perform many of the tasks that she bad previously taken for granted.

I found out later that she was one of the wage earners of her family and that the lack of income was a huge burden to the family. She was not able to recognize her children after her injury. The emotional cost of the injury, as well as the real cost, were staggering. The woman and her husband were selling their house to help cover the cost of the accident and to pay for ongoing care.

I believe that this tragedy could have been prevented or reduced if she had been wearing a helmet. The cost of a helmet is insignificant compared to the cost of not wearing a helmet. When you participate in wheeled sports biking, in-line skating and skateboarding - protect your head with a helmet. Helmets are great protection if worn and worn properly. Without a helmet, even some minor falls from a bike could be debilitating and even life threatening.

I hear the same comments over and over, "I was just riding to town; I didnít think I needed a helmet."

Many of the serious accidents that we see involving bikes and wheeled sport are in town. Cars, pedestrians and other wheeled riders contribute to the need for helmet.

Even if your are a good rider and are aware of your environment, it doesnít mean that the driver on his cell phone with a cup of coffee in his lap is aware of your presence.

Hedge your bet: wear a helmet. If you have kids, wear a helmet and set a good example for them.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.