Bike Helmet Credited With Saving Indiana Girl

By ZACH EVANS, Evansville Courier & Press | June 12, 2013

On May 25, Colleen Schneider was hit by a car as she was on her way to get lemonade while riding her bicycle.

On Wednesday, the 8-year-old Princeton, Ind., girl was allowed to leave the hospital. She is healing from a broken clavicle, some facial fractures, head trauma and other cuts and scrapes.

Her injuries are serious, but could have been worse, doctors say.

The helmet Colleen’s mother, Jennifer, ensured was strapped to her head saved Colleen’s life, Dr. Susanna Burkhead told the Evansville Courier & Press.

“Children that have this kind of an impact without the helmet on, I would not expect them to survive or I know they would have suffered massive brain damage,” said Burkhead, who is a critical care pediatrician. “The helmet definitely did save her.”

Jennifer said they set out to ride their bikes that Saturday as they often do in town.

At the intersection of Brumfield Avenue and Seminary Street in Princeton, around 3:30 p.m., Jennifer watched helplessly as Colleen was hit by the vehicle.

“Fear – it was fear. Then I immediately called 911,” she said on her initial reaction to bearing witness to the accident.

At their home, Doug, Colleen’s dad, was working in the backyard when his other children yelled that Colleen had been hit by a car. He rushed to scene of the accident.

With the helmet still buckled to her head, the ambulance came quickly, Jennifer said. “I knew that she had a big cut on her cheek,” Jennifer said, her voice thickening as she held back tears. “I knew there was a lot of blood and I knew that she had lost consciousness.”

She was taken by ambulance to Gibson General Hospital. In transit, Colleen may have been scared at the time, Jennifer said, but Doug said his daughter was composed, responding to questions from paramedics with “yes ma’am and no ma’am.”

From there, she was taken by LifeFlight to St. Mary’s, because doctors thought her condition was critical enough to warrant it, Jennifer said.

From the accident until Wednesday when she was allowed to leave, Jennifer never left her daughter’s side.

“She really has made a miraculous recovery so far,” she said. “I’m just amazed at what could have been and what is right now.”

The extra few minutes it took for Jennifer to make sure that Colleen’s helmet was properly adjusted are a few minutes far too many people don’t take, Burkhead said.

“Less than half of children wear helmets when they ride a bike,” she said. “And they have to wear it right and 100 percent of the time for it to work. … And they do save lives; we know it makes a huge difference.”

Doug is also a sergeant with the Evansville Police Department.

“I’ve seen, unfortunately, a number of difficult things and nothing in my nearly 20 years of police work could’ve ever prepared me for that day,” he said.

His years on the force aren’t what inspired the family to ensure they wear helmets when biking, rather, it’s just being conscientious and responsible, he said.

“It’s unusual that you see someone wearing their helmet when riding. It’s something that’s so inexpensive and, obviously in this case, very important,” Doug said. “It’s disturbing that it’s an anomaly to see someone wearing a helmet.”

On Aug. 23, St. Mary’s and Kohls will be at the Evansville Otters baseball game at Bosse Field providing helmets and bicycle safety for free to kids 12 and under.

“It’s a piece of equipment she won’t be without,” Jennifer said. Colleen will definitely be seen on a bike in the future, she said.

“She is a very competitive, very spirited little girl and obviously nothing is going to stop her. If anything, this will make her more determined,” her mom said.

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