Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heart Pounding Mountain Biking; Heart Stopping Falls

Sweat. Dirt. Rocks. Great scenery. What's not to like about mountain biking? But, it's important to get the right gear --- and, of course, look good in and on your gear. For example, this could be me:
Of course, the guy on the Gary Fisher HiFi is not a fat bastard with a 9 year old hard tail Specialized bike, but really, it could be me! The trauma surgeon in me makes a mental note of a few things that may not jump right out at the average person. First and foremost, this guy is wearing a helmet. I can't tell what brand it is, so let's say for the sake of argument it's a Giro Havoc.
Cool helmet. Stiff, wraps around the skull well. And, let's face it, it looks so good it could even make a fat bastard feel like he could ride Trail 401 in Crested Butte without sweating. Why, there is even one of these helmets at the DocSurg Pool Hall, Massage Parlor, Outpatient Brain Surgery Center and BBQ Joint.
The last time I saw this particular helmet was as I drove off to run a few errands with the lovely and talented Mrs. DocSurg. It was perched atop my son's head, strapped on tight, as he rode off up the hill on his way to race around in the dirt with a friend. In fact, he had insisted I buy this particular helmet, because he liked the way it covers the back of his head better than others he tried.

Look a bit closer, however, and you may see a few disturbing features.
The brim is not attached to the helmet in the way it should be. No big deal, that could happen if he dropped it. As long as the helmet is otherwise intact...

But, look a bit closer. There looks to be a little crack above the left ear. An inspection of the other side looks the same.

Er. Not good. The kid must have really dropped it, and now I get to drop another $64 for a new helmet. Better safe than sorry --- any break in the helmet renders it useless.

Except, that's not what really happened. The whole truth goes something like this. Imagine having a day off --- with all of the honey-dos and errands that entails, but starting it with a relaxing breakfast with SWIMBO at a nearby restaurant. The youngest surgling, who is such a mountain biking fanatic that he rides the neighborhood with weights on his legs to get stronger (honestly), has been dropped off up the hill with a friend for a few hours of bike riding. And then imagine that SWIMBO realizes her cell phone is dead as we pay the check, and plugs it in the charger once we get back in the SurgMobile. And it rings. Instantly.

Now imagine the heart-stopping words "Your son is being put into the ambulance right now."

Wait a minute. I know this stuff. Cold. I see trauma patients, I know what can be going on, and what is likely to have happened. But this is my son, and it's a bit hard to stay that analytical.

The EMTs that brought him to the ED handed me his helmet.
It's hard to get a perspective, but compare it to the side view of a similar helmet. The whole back is caved in. And that is exactly what is supposed to happen. That is, of course, if you happen to go flying head-first over your handlebars and smack the back of your head on the rocks. If you happen to like that sort of thing, which apparently Mr. Surgling does.

The most recent photo featuring this helmet comes from two days later, as he modeled it for his sisters.
You may notice a few bandages on his arm. They are hiding a few pieces of metal holding his radius in proper position, courtesy of one of my favorite hand surgeons. Just in case he wants to go riding again. Which he does, since we have arranged a biking trip in the Black Hills for late June. Which, of course, means that I'll be shelling out a few more dollars for a new helmet.

But this time, I'll do it with a smile, and not say a word when he asks for one with more protection.