Like most 9 year olds, Ashley didn’t want to waste any time getting home from school. Spring was in the air and that meant being outdoors and seeing neighbors and friends out and about. She would, no doubt, be helping with the family dinner that night as she loves to cook.
Ashley’s bike ride home that day took a scary turn – with a detour to the ER. But her good health almost a year later is a testament to the important role of bike helmets in preventing traumatic brain injuries, and why The Goodyear Foundation is teaming up with Akron Children’s Hospital to make sure more children have and wear bike helmets.
Ashley, her older sister Madison, and their parents Mike and Missy Dies will be on hand March 4 when the Goodyear Foundation announces it will fund a 3-year, $500,000 Safe Mobility Project to expand Akron Children’s childhood injury prevention program with particular focus on child passenger safety seats, bike helmets, pedestrian safety and teen driving.
Ashley’s bike accident happened on April 28, 2015, when she was in third grade at King Community Learning Center on Akron’s west side. Ashley, her older sister Madison, who was then a 5th grader, and another friend were about to hop on their bikes for the ride home when Madison insisted her little sister put on her bike helmet.
“Ashley didn’t want to mess up her hair, but Madison was insistent,” said Mike. “Madison even told Ashley that if she didn’t put on her helmet she would lock Ashley’s bike to the school’s bike rack. Finally, Ashley put on her helmet.”
The girls were on a side street, nearing home, when Ashley’s bike hit a big pothole.
“She was going down a hill and was moving at a nice clip when she hit that hole,” Mike said. “She was launched over her bike and landed 30 feet away, face down on the pavement. Her winter jacket was ripped to threads.”
Neighbors who witnessed the accident called Mike and Missy, as well as 911. An ambulance brought Ashley to Akron Children’s ER.
She needed 10 stitches in her forehead, but doctors were happy to see that the badly-damaged helmet had done its job in preventing a brain injury.
“Ashley passed the concussion tests and the ER doctors said that if she had not been wearing the helmet we would surely have been looking at a very different outcome,” said Mike. “Ashley damaged her 4 front teeth in the accident and we have had numerous visits to her general dentist, an orthodontist and endodontist – she just had a root canal. But even with this, we feel so very lucky. It could have been so much worse.”
It took Ashley about a month to regain her confidence and get back on her bike. But today, almost a year since the accident, Mike and Missy have a healthy daughter who loves to dance and sing to Megan Trainor and Adele songs, help in the kitchen (she has her own cookbook), play softball, and have fun with friends.
“Ashley loves nothing better than to paint her nails – her outfits are not complete until she has matching nail polish,” said Mike.
Even if it doesn’t quite match her outfit and her nail polish, Ashley will never again get on her bike without snapping on her new bike helmet.
“The nurses and doctors would not let us leave the ER with the old helmet,” Mike said. “It was badly damaged and they gave us a new one.”
The experience has led Mike and Missy to become advocates for bike helmets.
“We are more than willing to share our story,” he said. “We tell everyone to start having their kids wear bike helmets from the earliest age and let there be no exceptions. Tell your kids, ‘If you want to ride your bike – even for one block – you must wear your helmet.'”
Data from Safe Kids Summit County indicates that, like Ashley, hundreds of children a year are involved in bike accidents serious enough to prompt an ER visit, according to Heather Trnka, injury prevention coalition coordinator for Akron Children’s.
The Summit County Childhood Injury Report for 2014 showed that 479 Summit County children and teens came to Akron Children’s ER and other ERs with bicycle-related injuries and another 252 with injuries related to skateboards, skates and scooters.
“Nearly two thirds of all wheeled sports injuries of Summit County children were bicycle related,” said Heather. “We have data on ages and zip codes, which allows us to target programming and interventions.”
With The Goodyear Foundation’s support, Akron Children’s injury prevention team aims to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injuries in children involved in bicycle and other wheeled sports accidents by 10 percent.
The Safe Mobility Project will:
- Distribute 900 bike helmets per year to Summit County children ages 5-18.
- Expand existing partnerships with Safe Kids Summit County, Safe Routes to School, the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Akron Police Department to increase education and usage of bike helmets in high-risk neighborhoods.
- Develop partnerships with community organizations to conduct four helmet fitting distribution events and bike clinics in high-risk neighborhoods.
“While not pleasant, bruises, cuts and even broken bones are one thing,” said Heather. “They heal rather nicely. But head injuries can have life-changing consequences and they are so easily prevented with something as simple and inexpensive as a helmet.”