That slow motion bicycle crash your child just had? It might be worse than you think.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Dave and Judith, briefly recounting their son’s experience with what appeared to be a minor bicycle accident but turned out to be a bigger deal. I was stunned; for many years I thought we were alone in what happened to Davy.

davyWhen our sons were 7, John took them bicycling along the green belt next to the Boise River. Davy, watching something other than where he was going, rammed into Daryl and tumbled down. It was, by all accounts, one of those slow motion falls that couldn’t possibly cause any harm – Daryl didn’t even fall down.

Even so, Davy cried and cried and cried. After 30 minutes of crying, John had him get back on his bike and continue on, but Davy insisted he couldn’t. John called my mom to come pick him up from the trail.

By the time I got home from school, Mom had gotten Davy and his bike back to the house, but the child was sound asleep in the car. I gently carried him in and tried to wake him up. Nothing – not even his favorite cartoons – would wake that kid. I carried him upstairs and tucked him into his bed.

A few hours passed. John and Daryl got home with a box of donuts. I carried Davy downstairs and gave him a donut. He couldn’t eat it, and fell asleep in my arms again. We gave him ice cream – he refused that as well.

I knew my Davy, and I knew that something was wrong. No matter how forcefully John insisted that nothing could have happened during that trivial, slow-motion fall, I knew that something had happened. I loaded the kid into the car and headed to the ER.

darylLong story short, he injured his pancreas. As Davy flipped over the handlebars, something poked in to him. There was a very tiny scratch on the skin, but the internal damage was fairly severe.

We were fortunate. The doctor basically “shut down” Davy’s pancreas by feeding him absolutely nothing (literally, nothing) for four days, and then putting him on a clear liquid diet for another few days. And then a week with zero fat. Davy’s pancreas healed just fine.

For years now, I figured that Davy’s accident was just a fluke. It was a one-in-a-wholebunch thing that certainly didn’t warrant any attention.

And then I heard from Dave and Judith. Their son also suffered a very minor bike accident. Their son also ended up with internal damage. Their son ended up having to have surgery to correct it. And they have heard from many other parents who have had similar situations.

Dave and Judith, as a result of their experiences, have started a small business manufacturing Handlebar Helmets to try and reduce the number of internal injuries that happen when kids fall off their bikes. I’ll let Judith tell you her story, and explain it all.

 

Our Story

In August 2011, we had a typical summer cookout planned at our house – friends and their kids over for hamburgers, corn hole, and whatever the kids could get into. My husband, Dave, and I were enjoying the company when Luke came crying to his dad. He’d wrecked his bicycle in our driveway – not an uncommon occurrence for a 4-year-old. I took him inside and let him lay down in our bed. Next thing I know, he’s vomiting blue Capri Sun. He hadn’t felt good that morning – in fact, we almost considered rescheduling our party because he had a slight fever. I just assumed he was tired and probably had a virus.

HHLylaHe didn’t sleep that night. He was in our bed with a fever and the chills, his face would go from super pale to flush, and his heart was racing. He didn’t want any covers on him. We called the pediatrician and he assured us all the symptoms he showed was related to a high fever.  Sunday morning when we awoke, we determined that he needed to go to the doctor. Our pediatrician’s office didn’t open until late afternoon and we didn’t want to wait. We dropped our two older girls off at church with their grandparents and headed to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital ER. Something was definitely wrong – Luke never made a peep or a cry or a movement during the 25-minute ride or even while we sat in the ER. We were taken back immediately – which is never a good sign in the ER.

Within just a few hours of arrival and a series of tests, Luke was taken to surgery. Turned out that when we wrecked his bicycle, the handlebars had punctured his small intestine. This was a complete surprise to us as he had no scratch or broken skin or bruise on his stomach. He was in Vanderbilt Children’s hospital for a week where he received exceptional care. He was unable to eat for a week and lost about 10 pounds. We had to stay on alert for potential infection due to the stomach bile that had leaked into his body.

The surgeon shared with us that bicycle injuries like this are more common than people realize.

Thankfully, Luke had a full recovery and has a really “cool” scar to show off. I can hear him now when he’s older bragging to the ladies hoping to charm them… “Yeah, I almost died when I was four.”

The scar is a constant reminder to me that maybe I didn’t do enough to protect my son. It is my job to keep him safe, and I felt like I had failed.

Handlebar Helmet Pic

Handlebar Helmets slip into the ends of your child’s handlebars, so that there is less risk of internal injury when your child crashes – and what child won’t crash?

That’s when Dave and I decided we could do something about this for other children and their parents. And so, the handlebar helmet was born. This small piece of plastic might be the difference and keep another child and family from having to experience the physical, emotional, and financial impact of an abdominal accident resulting in hospitalization.

Luke may have a scar on his stomach, but he was not permanently scarred emotionally. He was back on his bike just as soon as the doctor cleared him to do so.

As parents, it is our job to protect our children and to put their safety first.

 

Dave and Judith are proud parents of four children – Sydney, Julia, Luke, and Lyla. They are an active family who spends a lot of time together. You can usually find them at a softball or baseball field, a cross country meet, a dance recital, or at the pool. When they are at home, you can find them cheering on the Tennessee Titans, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Cincinnati Reds, hanging out by the bonfire, grilling out, or riding four-wheelers. Family is everything. To quote Julia (at a young age), “We are Meyers. We stick together to like peas.”

 

Disclaimer

Impact forces, even in a common low speed accident, can result in serious injury or death, even when a handlebar helmet is used. Handlebar helmets cannot prevent all abdominal injuries.

Please visit www.handlebarhelmet.com to purchase some handlebar helmets. They come in White, Black, Blue, Red, and Pink.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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13 Responses to That slow motion bicycle crash your child just had? It might be worse than you think.

  1. Wendy Sewell April 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    OMG! I would NEVER have known that could happen!! Our kids’ bikes already have plastic tips to the handlebars (complete with streamers, naturally). But I will definitely know to take them in to the doctor should they complain even if it doesn’t look serious. You know, when our daughter broke her arm it was from a VERY innocuous looking fall. Onto CARPET. ACK! They always find a way to keep you on your toes!!

    [Reply]

    Dave Reply:

    @Wendy Sewell,
    Thank you so much for your comment. Please know that the plastic tips on the end of your kids bikes is very thin and does not offer much protection. Quite often these plastic tips are torn and/or completely missing due to the child dropping the bike and the handlebar end cutting through the end of the grip. By the way, we love the streamers and are working on incorporating them into our next handlebar helmet product run.

    Thanks
    Dave
    Handlebar Helmet

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Wendy Sewell, I never dreamed it could happen either, and truly believed that Davy’s incident was a fluke. When Dave wrote to me with his story, I was blown away. Apparently, it’s way more common than I would have thought!

    [Reply]

  2. Melissa April 24, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Wow! I should keep an eye out then. My son had a bad crash a few weeks ago but he was fine, but now I will know the symptoms. Great post!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Melissa, I think it’s all about knowing that a very simple fall CAN cause a serious injury. Just knowing that, and being on the lookout for symptoms, is huge. They crash so very often, and the chance is small that a serious injury will happen, but…

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  3. Marie @Budgeting for Travel April 24, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    That was scary! I have a 7 year old daughter, she has a bike but she rarely use it. And I have a two nephews, they also have a bikes, I told them about this story.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Marie @Budgeting for Travel, Scary, indeed! I just think it’s good that parents are aware that a trivial fall can cause serious injury. I felt so silly taking Davy to the hospital because I was convinced there was no way he could have really hurt himself from something so minor. I was wrong.

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  4. Leah April 28, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    Wow! What a scary thing! Who knew? I will definitely be more vigilant about falls my children encounter when cycling.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Leah, Kids fall all the time, and most of the times nothing serious happens. It’s good to have it in the back of your head that something serious CAN happen, although it’s not likely. Watch for odd symptoms and get the kid to the ER if those symptoms do occur!

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  5. Ronny May 12, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    The thought of internal injuries always makes me a bit squeamish … glad to hear both kids in this post were OK in the end. Never heard of handlebar helmets before, but I’ll be sure to pass this along to people I know with kids. Sounds like a solid idea!

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  6. San diego hearing centers May 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    thanks for sharing after i read your article i rather not to buy a bicycle to my kids i know cycling is a good exercise either but to put my kid life in danger thats not good.

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  7. John May 26, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    I had no idea that handlebars could do that to internal organs. I guess that could be true of any object hitting the torso hard enough or concentrated enough. I used to be concerned about my toddlers walking around with sticks until I thought.. “Toddlers have been running around with sticks for thousands of years… and we survived…”

    That being said, obviously we want to do everything we can to protect our children. The handlebar helmuts are definitely a good idea.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @John, I had no idea either! I was stunned when the doctor told me what had happened to my little boy.

    [Reply]

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