Doctor pushes helmet safety after near-fatal bike accident
Do you have trouble getting your kids to wear their bicycle helmets? Maybe you should tell them about Dr. Deborah Ehrlich.
In July 2011, Dr. Ehrlich, a pediatrician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, was on her way home from a bike ride when she was struck by a semi-trailer truck at a busy intersection in Northbrook, Ill.
Ehrlich was crossing the street on a green light. The truck driver was turning right on the red light. But he never saw her. He turned his truck directly into Ehrlich, throwing her to the ground and then running her over. She was taken to Lutheran General Hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center with fractures up and down her body: the upper arm, wrist, pelvis, sacrum (tailbone), and tibia (shinbone).
It could have been a lot worse. “Her helmet truly saved her from a major head injury, I am sure of it,” says Dr. Manoj Shah, director of trauma services at Lutheran General. Her helmet was completely demolished.
Dr. Ehrlich hopes her story motivates parents to purchase helmets for their children — and for themselves.
But there are still far too many bicycle injuries. Sixty-seven children under 16 died in bike accidents in 2010, and another 10,000 were injured, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Whether because of apathy, vanity or lack of parental insistence, many kids stop wearing helmets once they gain confidence in their riding abilities. They forget that riding over a pothole, stopping quickly, taking a turn too sharply, or getting hit by a car are all scenarios that can hurt even the most advanced cyclists.
With only 25 percent of children reporting that they always wear bike helmets, head traumas are much more common than they need to be. In fact, helmet use can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and severe brain injury by 88 percent, according to Safe Kids USA, an organization that pushes for child safety.
The Trauma Department at Lutheran General sells bicycle helmets for $10. Each helmet is fitted to ensure that it provides maximum protection for the bike rider.
“Wearing a helmet saved my life, and I want to make sure others know that,” Dr. Ehrlich says. “If this accident can get through to kids how important a helmet is, it will have been worth it.”
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