When the Reality of Safety Helmets Hits Home
Wearing a bike helmet is second nature to my kids. So much so that they often just leave them on to shoot baskets or play around the house. That’s probably not typical of most kids, but I’m a trauma surgeon and my wife is a nurse practitioner, so NOT wearing a safety helmet has NEVER been an option.
Last Spring, that “second nature” may have saved my son Connor from serious injury. Connor, who was 6 at the time, was riding bike with his older sister when she heard a crash behind her. (She told us the noise was “terrifying” to her.) When she stopped and turned around, she saw Connor on his back with blood all over his face. When she ran back to him, he didn’t respond at all. So she ran a block back to our house, to tell my wife.
By the time they got back to Connor, he was moaning a little, but he wasn’t crying or talking. My wife knew it was an emergency situation and called 911 right away.
I learned about Connor while I was operating in one of the worst, and most stressful trauma cases I can remember. Another trauma surgeon was close by and stepped in to take my place so I could meet Connor when he arrived. All I knew was that Connor was coming to the ED, unconscious, in an ambulance with my wife.
I deal with trauma situations every day. I felt ready to see my son come through the ambulance bay doors, the same way all other trauma patients arrive, but seeing my son come in with blood on his face…well, it’s something I was not ready for. I was reassured because I knew he was wearing his helmet because he always did.
We learned later from a neighbor who had seen the crash that Connor’s front wheel turned as they were going down a hill, and he flew straight over the handle bars and landed on his head. His helmet cracked, not in half, but it had clearly taken the brunt of the impact.
Connor went home the next day with only scrapes on his face and today has just a small scar on his cheekbone. As an adult trauma surgeon, I’ve seen what can happen when people don’t wear helmets. Connor’s crash is proof of the value of wearing a helmet – the potential risk from not wearing a helmet is too great not to.