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
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
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.