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Brain Buckets - Wear Them

A helmet that died...so that its user might live.

by Andy Dappen

Every now and then when a melancholy mood envelopes me, I think about Sally. Sally was a friend who, within a year of graduating from college, hit a pothole on her bicycle, lost control of the front tire, pitched over the front of the bike, and suffered a serious blow to her helmetless head. To this day decades later, she remains severely physically and mentally handicapped.

As a young adult that incident shook me -- over the course of a second someone in the prime of life had much of her mental processing power, her speech, and the ability to move one side of her body taken from her. Sally would eventually retrieve the ability to talk with a slurred voice and a reduced vocabulary, but she would never live independently again. Her parents became her permanent caregivers.

Now with kids the age of Sally at the time of her accident, I better appreciate not only what a horrific loss this was to Sally but what a life shattering event this was to her parents. Especially when the damage was so preventable. With a helmet on, Sally would have suffered some temporary skin loss rather than permanent brain damage.

In my own life, I have survived at least three incidences that might have left me dead or handicapped had I not been wearing a helmet. After college I took a long climbing fall that left me on crutches for a month and that also sent the point of a rock completely through the fiberglass shell protecting the base of my skull. Much later while mountain biking the Mission Ridge Trail, a tumble sent the clapper of my head into the bell of a tree -- an experience that left me dazed rather than dead. And only two years ago while practicing very modest jumps on my mountain bike, I augured into the ground and shattered my helmet. Holy moly, I'm one lucky souly.

I'm far from the only who has a helmet to thank for the fact that he thinks a litte gooder than a head of lettuce. Recently I ran across a copy of a letter to the Safety Valve that local bicyclist and skier Dan Kelly wrote some time ago. Dan has ventured even closer to the bright white light of the next dimension, but helmets keep dragging him back to this dimension where we continue to enjoy his company. Read on.