HELMETS THAT SAVED A HEAD

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Do you have a helmet that saved your head in a bicycle accident? If you do, please help me to produce an exhibit to demonstrate the fact that helmets do work. It will be displayed at the Third Annual CCM Bicycle Art show at The Butcher Shop Gallery, 1319 W. Lake St. Chicago from February 12-26, 2000.

If you have such a helmet, please write out a paragraph or two telling the extent of the injuries on the rest of your body and the details of the accident. Tell us anything that you think would help convince a non-believer that helmets are worth the trouble and expense. Your copy will be displayed along with your helmet. Any relevant photos will also be displayed.

Send or deliver helmets to me at 1113 W. Webster, Chicago, IL 60614. If you deliver it yourself, ring either the Schubert or the Kangaroo Connection bell.

After the art show, your helmet will be returned to you, so be sure to provide your name, address, phone and e-mail if you are on-line.



Below are the stories that came back. I'm pleased to say that the exhibit was well received at the Art Gallery. Everybody stopped to read and even stooped to read the stories that were hanging low on the display rack.

The exhibit has appeared at other bicycle events indoors and out since that date and is available to travel anywhere near Chicago, IL.

Thanks to all of you who submitted stories. If I forgot to copy and paste anything you sent here, please tell me and I'll do it now. Contact me at kangarookathy@yahoo.com

Kathy Schubert

There were 8 helmets and about 20 tales of helmet experience. Each tale was in 5"x7" format in a plastic envelope. The most potent sentence was in red, but shown in bold type below. I'm starting with the most impressive tale which came with the partial Bell helmet shown below. Notice how much of the front of the helmet has been sheared off.




THE SPROCKET KNIFE by Jeff Parker

On a hot Sunday afternoon in September, 1986 my wife and I were road biking on a two lane country road near our home in Chattanooga, TN. Both of us had ridden this route near our house many times and were cycling the homeward leg of a large downhill, travelling approx. 30 MPH. I was neatly tucked down on my aero bars and clipped into my pedals trying to be as streamlined as possible so my wife could effectively draft behind me. Just at the moment of attaining top speed, a large black dog came streaking from my left across the road intent on chasing a deer. The dog never saw me. I had no choice but to stay tucked on the bike, hit the dog broadside and hope for the best. At my speed, swerving was not an option nor was putting my arms out to cushion my fall (I was 3 months post-op from a third rotator cuff sergery on my left shoulder and I was most hesitant to damage it again). At my speed, I feared my arms would be torn from my body or at least mangled badly. Rolling seemed like the only way to survive. I thought to myself just before impact, this is going to really hurt. I stayed tucked and gripped my aero bars tightly as I "T-boned" the canine.
I flipped headlong over the dog and sailed through the air only to hit directly on my left shoulder. Still attached to the bike, I rolled numerous times down the middle of the pavement. Dressed only in a tank top and bike shorts, the summer clothing did not offer much protection to my back, shoulders, elbows and knees. My bike gloves and helmet were the only line of defense from a bad case of imminent road rash. My wife, close behind me, seeing all this unfold, had wisely begun to brake but was unable to avoid the tangle of tumbling rider and aluminum in front of her. She immediately ran over my right shoulder with her front wheel and the large front chain ring sprocket, acting like a knife, cut my upper right arm before travelling up my cheek.
The sprocket then sliced off the front lobe of my bike helmet as it whizzed past. My wife's momentum was greatly blunted by hitting me and she tumbled onto the pavement, suffering a milder case of road rash than I had just received. Luckily there was no other traffic on the road at the time of the collision, otherwise our injuries could have been much worse.
After we skidded to a stop we both were disoriented and bleeding. We were attempting to get up and out of the road when the dog's owner came running over to assist us. Having witnessed the whole incident, he was very concerned about us and became alarmed once he got closer.
My left arm and shoulder, hanging limply by my side was not working at all. My head was starting to throb from the numerous impacts it had just received.
Blood was starting to ooze from knees, elbows and shoulders where they had skimmed the pavement. To him I looked like a stunt double from a B-grade horror movie. Curiously, I felt no pain (that was to come later with a vengeance). My bike front tire had assumed the shape of a pizza pie with a couple of slices missing and the front fork was bent far under the frame. My wife and her bike both miraculously had only a few scrapes. Later, x-rays showed I had suffered a broken left shoulder blade as the only serious skeletal injury. My orthopedic surgeon repaired my shoulder and marvelled at the fact that we were both not injured any worse.
My head, beside the cut cheek from the chain ring. had no other trauma despite being bounced repeatedly on the tarmac.
Close friends later thought that my wife missed an excellent opportunity to get rid of her husband quckly by running over me, all the while making it look like an accident, but she maintains to this day that she really did TRY to avoid hitting me. Skid mark analysis was inconclusive. She has talked lately, however, of increasing my life insurance. I have noticed though she does ride further away from me now.
According to its owner, the dog was not injured and ate heartily that evening. He claims that the dog now looks both ways before crossing the road and cowers at the sign of lycra bike shorts. The abrasions from the road rash have long since healed by the memories of the accident are still vivid to this day. Every time I look at the scars on my body I remember the helmet that saved my head from serious injury on that hot Sunday in August. Don't leave home without it.



This is Officer Patrick Nolan's helmet

While riding at night after a Bulls victory I hit a freshly painted white line in the street.

Next thing I knew I was lying in the middle of Van Buren St. with the wind knocked out of me.

The helmet was cracked in two places but
I was on my way home safely in minutes thanks to the helmet.



There's a large chunk missing out of the right side below the yellow arrow on Al Stuhlsatz' helmet.
Al Stuhlsatz - Chesterfield, MO

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HONEY

The date, August 4, 1997, is easy to remember because it's my wife's birthday.

My plan was to take an easy 30 mile breakfast ride and to get home in time to go out to dinner with the family. The important thing is that I wasn't riding aggressively that day, I just wanted to get an easy workout.

Less than one mile from the finish point, the route included a fairly steep descent. At the bottom of the hill the county had recently maintained the road with a nice thick, loose, chip and seal- contrary to my expectations. My first and only warning was a high speed front wheel wobble. The next thing I remember was waking up to hear my riding buddy run up and lift my bicycle off my body. Apparently, I had launched over the handlebars at about 30-MPH and landed on my right shoulde and the right side of my head and slid for awhile.

In spite of being unconscious for a short time, I've had no lasting symptoms of head injury. I don't like to think of what the results might have been had I not been wearing a helmet. My broken collarbone eventually needed to be surgically pinned and I had to sleep in a recliner chair for about three months. My wife tells me, however, that I'm no goofier than I was before the accident.

Lisa (it wasn't my fault) Phillips - Chicago, IL


I was adjusting my gloves and my riding friend reached out to steer for me while I did that. I protested, and went over backwards - landing on the back of my head.

Because I was wearing my helmet, I'm O.K.

The helmet is completely severed in the back, to the right of the BikeWinter sticker.

Bryan Hufford - Sebastopol, CA

California boy wearing helmet survives 350-foot dragging underneath truck
March 17, 2000
Web posted at: 9:54 AM EST (1454 GMT)


SEBASTOPOL, California (AP) -- A bicycle helmet helped save the life of an 11-year-old boy who was struck by a truck and dragged about 350 feet Thursday, police said.

Bryan Hufford was on his way to school at 8:15 a.m. when the driver of a pickup truck stopped to let him walk his bicycle across the street, said Officer Bob Smith.

A tow-truck accidentally rear-ended the pickup truck, causing it to roll over the boy. The pickup truck driver was knocked unconscious and apparently stepped on his accelerator, Smith said.

The boy, stuck between the bicycle and the bottom of the truck, was dragged until the pickup hit a building.

He suffered injuries that included a compound fracture to his left leg and a broken arm. He was taken by helicopter from Sonoma County to Oakland Children's Hospital, where he was in fair condition Thursday night.

"He had an angel on his shoulder. The helmet is severely damaged. It absorbed a great deal of impact," Smith said.

Lance Armstrong and Frankie Andreu
as written by Frankie Andreu
Nice, France
5 September, 2000


We were in the middle of nowhere when the car appeared. We were in the middle of doing a 4.5-hour training loop. We were riding up the back side of the 15-kilometer Col St. Roch. This road is aone-lane road in so-so condition and it's not used by anyone unless theyhappen to live there. It's a road we've done many times so it wasn't newterritory for us.

The climb has a couple small downhills and we happened to be on one of thedowns when we came to the blind corner. Lance and I were riding on the front and Tyler was riding just in back of us. We were not bombing the descent;wewere riding casually talkingabout the G.P. Eddy Merckx and how big thetrophies were that Lance and Eki won.

All of a sudden all three of us let out a yell. At the last moment a car came flying around the corner and since the road is roughly one car-width wide we didn't have much time to think about what to do. We all dove hard to the right to miss the car. The driver saw us at the last moment and didn't even have time to brake. I was on the inside and cleared the car. Tyler, who was a bike length behind
us, had the critical extra space and he made it. Lance, who was in the middle of the road, had no chance. If we were driving a car we would have hit head on; since we were on our bikes the two of us were able to get by.
When I saw Lance I thought immediately that he was going to hi the car dead smack in the middle. Lance was going to be decoration on this guy's grill.

Somehow Lance turned enough to the right. At this time I wa thinking broken leg or hip, but the car missed his legs and hit the rear of the bike. The impact sent him flying over the hood of the car and he landed brutally on the ground. I jumped off my bike and as soon as I turned around Lance was sitting up taking body inventory. Right away I knew he wasn't hurt real badly which was a relief.

Then as I looked up the road I saw Lance's Trek. Actually, lying there on the road was a bunch of tubes with some Trek stickers on them. Lance's rear triangle got completely ripped off-the chain was holding the rear wheel on and his front forks were broken off.
His helmet had one huge crack in it.

My theory is that the car hit the rear part of the bike, tearing the triangle off and then when the front whipped around the forks broke.

As I was staring at the bike Tyler was talking with Lance to make sure that he was okay. Lance was sitting up with his right arm in his lap; he couldn't move his shoulder. I immediately thought br ken collarbone. Amazingly, after 10 minutes Lance figured out nothing was broken but his shoulder and neck were very sore. He couldn't really move at this point and as each minute passed his shoulder kept getting stiffer and stiffer. We borrowed the driver's cell phone to call for help.

The driver was an older man with his son and they were coming back from some construction job somewhere. We called Lance's wife and explained what had happened. The hard part was explaining where we were. It was decided that Tyler would ride to the top of the climb to wait for Kristin and I would wait on the road with Lance.

We finally told the drivers of the car that they could leave. By now, Lance was over the initial shock of crashing and was getting mad about crashing and didn't want to see these French guys anymore.

As Tyler rode up the mountain to find Kristin, Lance and I waited and waited and waited. I figured it would take her at least an hour to get to us After about a half-hour Lance told me to flag down the next car so we could call Kristin's portable to find out where she was.

The next car that pulled up was Kristin-1.5 hours later. The entire time we, were out there, not one car passed us. The only car on the road that day happened to meet us at the wrong time on the wrong blind corner.

Lance slid into his car and Kristin drove to the hospital to get him a check-up. Tyler and I hopped on our bikes and rode home. After seeing what a close call we had, I don't think any of us considered this an unlucky day.It was actually a lucky day for
Lance Armstrong and Frankie Andreu.

Just for a change, here are two bikus (haikus about bike helmets)

cyclist no helmet
watermelon dropped and split
vegetable, not fruit

by Chris Gagnon

hospital worker
each day sees a new victim
head and future smashed

by Howard Kaplan

Howard says "I actually see more than one new cyclist who's brain injured each day."





The grey arrow points to the place where the shell split. George is now a believer.
George Christensen - Chicago, IL

It was the middle of January, it was below freezing, the streets were clear and I was riding hard north on Damen a little after noon. I made a hard turn east onto Addison cutting close to the curb.

Then suddenly, without any warning my bike was flying out from underneath me. For a prolonged instant I was airborne before my right shoulder was driven into the pavement. An instant later my helmeted head hit with equal impact. An immediate pain stabbed my shoulder, but my helmet had so greatly absorbed the hit my head had taken, bouncing up without even a glimmer of stars, that the blow almost felt good, like a warm embrace from a friend.

I was marveling at the performance of my helmet as I was simultaneously trying to crawl out of the street and drag my bike with me, while also looking for the patch of ice or slick surface I hadn't seen that brought me down. I sat for several minutes on the steps of a two, flat hoping I was just badly bruised and the pain would subside. But it only worsened.

When I couldn't get my right arm to move I knew there would be no biking home for me this day. It was an ambulance to the hospital instead.

But it might have been followed by a ride in a hearse if it hadnt been for the helmet. My collarbone was snapped in two with a third fragment floating free--a severe break that would take 6 to 8 weeks to mend.

And my helmet cracked too. but easily and gladly replaced.

Anne Alt - Chicago, IL
8/20/00

I was less than 10 miles into what would have been my first century ride. My friend who was leading the ride hit a deep hole, wobbled and went down right in front of me. I crashed into him and flipped, landing on my head. Once I sat up and caught my breath, I knew I wouldn't be finishing the ride. An ambulance took me to the ER. They did x-rays and a CAT scan. Nothing broken.
My neck got banged up pretty bad. I had major road rash on my face and some on my neck, plus stitches in my face. For the first week I got stared at a lot. My windpipe somehow got bruised. It was hard to talk or swallow. Between that and my swollen face, I was on a liquid diet for a few days, taking painkillers to sleep and antibiotics for the infection. Luckily there was no spinal fracture. Had some scary moments there until they knew that for sure. I spent a few days at home recovering before I a full day of work. After 3 weeks, my face was mostly healed and all the bruises wre gone.
The damage to my bike was minor, considering. Bent pannier rack, destroyed seat, flat tire. The wheels are still true. The frame is not bent. Good old bike. :)

It took a week of recovery before I was able to ride again. As soon as I was able to get around well enough, I got replacements for the damaged bike parts and bought a new helmet. If I hadn't been wearing this helmet, I probably wouldn't be able to write this now.

Helmets and Lights VITAL when biking at Night
Example of Probable Injuries Greatly Reduced
Car rear-end Accident in north Evanston, December, 1997
by rider in accident, Andrew T. Fisher

December 13th (a lucky day), Andy Fisher was biking north in Evanston from his new apartment downtown to have supper with his mother at her present (his old) house just north of Evanston Hospital. He normally always rides with both a head and red tail light after dark, but shortly after he left his apartment, his head light suddenly went out (it was low batteries with a halogen bulb). Because: (1) most cars approach a cyclist from the rear, and his rear light was still functioning properly, and (2) it was only a short one mile ride, he decided to continue without a headlight. Everything went just fine until he was biking north along Ridge Avenue just east of Evanston Hospital, almost at his final destination.

Normally, on weekdays, cars are not allowed to park on the east side of the street, but on that Friday evening the ban was lifted. Andy was biking quite rapidly (over 15mph) fairly close to the curb with no headlight, and no car behind him, at that key moment, to illuminate the reflectors of a parked car. Just north of the hospital, suddenly the rear of a parked car appeared directly in front of him before he could stop or steer around it. Andy's bike hit the rear of the car, he flew off his bike and his head crashed through the rear window of the car. He was not knocked out, did not feel that much immediate pain, but his face was bleeding quite
severely. He crawled out of the car, picked up his bike (whose front wheel would still spin freely), walked it home, then he and his mother walked over to Evanston Hospital's emergency section; no ambulance was needed.

After five hours of x-rays, stitches, and examinations at the hospital, which showed no bones broken, Andy and his mother had a late supper around 11PM. He was able to sing with the Unitarian Church choir for their main Christmas concert the following morning. He is still wearing the same pair of glasses he was wearing on the day of the accident when his head smashed through the rear window of the car. By today (January 21st), almost all of his cuts are completely healed. How was all this possible? Andy was wearing his helmet, which he ALWAYS does EVERY time he goes biking. It took the bulk of the bash (and has a couple of extra scratches on it).

Andy's old Trek 420 21 speed bike was totalled (its frame almost totally cracked in a couple of places he learned the following week at Turin), but his mother got him a brand new Bianchi 24 speed for Christmas!

The only negatives were: (1) Andy's two top upper teeth were both badly cracked, the upper left tooth so badly that it needed a root canal, but neither needs an expensive crown yet; (2) after calling the police and speaking with the driver of the rented car whose rear window was smashed - the owner was horrified on going out to drive and finding not only the window smashed, but blood all over the trunk, and immediately called the police. After hearing the truth about the bike accident, the owner was much more concerned with Andy's condition than the car. However, Andy ended up paying over $400 to replace the rear window.

Besides wearing your helmet, you should always ride at night with BOTH front and back lights working.

Mark Travis - Valley Glen, CA

Two years ago I had an extreme bicycle accident (here in Los Angeles) went over the handle bars (mountain bike) and landed on my head (with $20 helmet). Sufferedcontusions and concussion, was in coma for 5 days, 3 broken ribs, broken clavicle, brain hemorrhaging, etc. etc. Essentially, the helmet not only saved by brain,but according to neurosurgeons at UCLA Medical center (some of the top in the country), it saved my life. Blood had to be drained from my hemorrhaging brain (I barely escaped brain surgery). I was in ICU and confined to hospital for 2 weeks and in intensive therapy for 3 months. I am now fine (but still experience repercussions from the injury, memory loss and difficulties, but essentially fully recovered). My recovery was considered a 'miracle' at UCLA partially due to the fact that I was in such good physical shape that I withstood the enormous impact, and partially because a $20 helmet (Specialized) took most of the impact.

I have always wanted to do what you are doing. Spread the word. Enforce the helmet laws (which are different in each state but which are rarely enforced)
and educate all bike riders.

Rael Slavensky

I was engaged in my usual commute from UIC to home, along the Lakefront Path. It was a nice, sunny, warm day, so I was wearing bike shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. The last time I had looked at my computer, I was doing about 18mph. I had just crossed the driveway to the
Chicago Yacht Club, near Monroe. The next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance. I started to say "What am I doing here?", when I realized I was in a lot of pain on my left side, from my ankle to my head. I ended up with a sprained ankle and knee, a femoral neck fracture requiring
hemiarthroplasty, rib contusions, a broken clavicle, a little road rash on my
elbow & back, and a concussion. My helmet has a little hole in the shell, and a 1" long crack. The security guard at the yacht club says he witnessed what happened and called an ambulance, which arrived within 5 minutes of my fall. He also said I was hit & run by another bike. I don't, know, I don't remember anything other than what I stated above. I think if I hadn't been wearing a helmet, I wouldn't be alive.



The outside shell sustained some damage, but Frank's head did not.
Frank Paulo - Chicago, IL

I was wearing a helmet I bought from you when I crashed last July.

I went head over heels over a fallen rider. Smashed the helmet but saved my skull. Bruise, Road Rash and a broken finger, but my head was fine.

Larry Decker

Unfortunately I don't have a helmet that's been through an accident. I wish I did! I am 49 years old and have ridden for many years. I've done several RAGBRAI's, TOMRV's, and other rides in the Iowa/Illinois area.

In fall of 1992, I was preparing for the Tour de Grand DeTour. This is a ride my company, John Deere, sponsors each year. The day before the ride, I fell off my bike about two blocks from my home. I wasn't wearing my helmet. I received a serious head injury and was given a 50% chance to make it through the night. With a lot of prayers I did make it. I was in the hospital for six weeks, going through various types of therapy, and off work for another two months.

I have never regained memory of the accident, or the first week after it. I have always been a helmet advocate, and always wore mine on rides. The onlything that I can assume is that I was just checking my bike out for the ride the next day, and didn't put my helmet on. I was in my residential neighborhood, and must have caught a tire in a crack between two slabs of pavement. The bike stopped and I didn't. My brain injury caused some paralysis of one side of my body, and a loss of short-term memory loss. I also had three broken ribs which the doctors didn't find for several days.

With a lot of help, I've made almost a complete recovery. I still have some memory problems, but that may just be old age catching up with me. I wish I had a helmet to share with you, but unfortunately I just have this story.

I thought maybe you could use it to help sell the need for everyone to wear helmets every time they get on their bike. I still shudder when I see families on our bike path with no one wearing helmets. If the parents only knew what risk they are taking for themselves and their children.

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