Vail Health Magazine 2013 - page 19

Kim Greene, Scott Hixon, right, of
Greater Eagle Fire, and Paul Stoltman,
center, of Eagle River Fire, speak about
the effects that a five-foot-fall would
have on a soft melon with a helmet
versus without a helmet.
Brian Haygood tells his story to a
group of Eagle County Charter Academy
students during a ThinkFirst presentation
about his traumatic brain injury while
snowboarding in Tahoe.
good, but still better than some.
“For months he was gradually
coming out of the coma,” said Jere-
my’s mother, Kim Greene, chapter
director for VVMC’s ThinkFirst pro-
gram. “His biggest issue was move-
ment. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t
use his hands. His speech was very
slow and slurred. It still is to this
day. The biggest problem he faces
now is extreme fatigue. He has a lot
of balance problems and walks with
a limp. If you were to meet him, you
would know he’s had a brain injury.
He’s had trouble keeping jobs but he
is a very serious artist and is gradu-
ating from CSU this spring. He feels
he’s lucky but a simple thing could
have prevented it.”
In Jeremy’s case, there is plenty
of evidence supporting this truth.
His friend in the car that day was
wearing a seatbelt. Although he
was on the side of the car that
endured the worst impact and he
was welded inside the vehicle, he
walked away virtually uninjured.
“This kid was pushed up under
the dashboard. The Jaws of Life
had to cut him out of the car. I saw
that kid in the emergency room.
He came up and talked to me. He
had a scratch on his knee,” Kim
Greene said. “I can remember
seeing Jeremy in the hospital with
tubes and everything coming out
of him. He looked fine. No broken
bones. His face was fine. The only
injury he had was to his brain.”
Now, it is Greene’s life purpose to
educate individuals — especially
young people — about the impor-
tance of protecting their brains.
It’s a mission that fits right in with
VVMC’s ThinkFirst program.
“We focus on kids because they
don’t think these things will hap-
pen to them,” Greene said. “People
say things happen for a reason. So
maybe now our purpose is to edu-
cate as many people as we can.”
According to ThinkFirst, more
than half a million people per
year sustain permanent brain
and spinal cord injuries in the
United States. Greene said that
as part of the program, she
and colleagues at ThinkFirst
will periodically go out on the
mountain at Vail and count
how many skiers and snow-
boarders are wearing helmets.
She said on a good day it’s about
75 percent.
“A helmet will potentially
prevent a minor head injury and
potentially let someone have
a minor head injury versus a
major head injury,” said Dr. Barry
Hammaker, trauma surgeon at Vail
Valley Medical Center. “In a high-
speed accident, the deceleration
will injure the brain. There are so
many that we see that we don’t
know what the result would be if
the person were wearing a helmet.
Essentially the helmet’s job is to
absorb the impact.”
Anyone who has broken a
helmet or had their bell rung while
wearing one — and then blinked a
few times and been okay — knows
how necessary a helmet is. It does
bear noting, though, that a helmet
should be replaced after it sustains
any type of significant impact.
“We can fix a lot of things —
broken bones, internal organ
injuries — but we’re not very good
at fixing the brain,” Dr. Hammaker
explained. “The brain essentially
has to heal itself. Sometimes it can
do that well, other times not so
much. There are lingering prob-
lems. Mohammed Ali is the best
example. He’s a mess. Basically,
with the current helmets available
for skiing and snowboarding, there
is no downside. Not only do they
protect you, but they do a better
job than any hat in keeping your
head warm.”
Injury is the leading cause of
death among children and
teens. The most frequent
causes of these injuries
are motor vehicle crashes,
violence, falls, sports and
recreation. ThinkFirst is
dedicated to preventing
those injuries whenever
possible, especially for kids
and teens, through education,
research and policy. For more
information visit
or call VVMC’s chapter director,
Kim Greene, at 970-477-5166.
Every year, the VVMC
chapter of ThinkFirst:
Reaches 9,259 people.
Has 59 presentations
and 15 events.
Distributes 174 ski and
772 bike helmets.
Performs hundreds of
car-seat fittings.
Photos by Justin McCarty
“We focus on kids because they
don’t think these things will happen
to them.” —KimGreene
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