“Wear a helmet.” That’s the advice of a Ucluelet teen who broke his neck and lived to tell about it.
Robert Ellis, an incoming 11th grader at Ucluelet Secondary School, was riding his mountain bike on the BMX track on July 26 when he hit a jump and landed nose-first on the track.
“I hit my head on the ground – things somewhat went black, then started coming back really fuzzy. I didn’t think anything of it, started to sit up, and I was dizzy.
“I went to lay back again, but I couldn’t move my neck and I couldn’t lay all the way down,” Ellis recalled. “At that point, I knew I’d broken something.”
Fortunately for Ellis, he was wearing a full-face helmet. It sustained a crack on the side he landed on, and the visor broke.
His friend Levi went to the road and grabbed a passing tourist who stopped to help.
They took him home, and he sat down at the front door, where he told his worried mother that his neck was hurting.
An x-ray in Tofino left the doctor worried about what he couldn’t ee, and Ellis was sent to Nanaimo for a CT scan.
“They told me my neck was broken,” he said.
A broken C-2 vertebrae sent him to Victoria, where he spent a week and was fitted for a halo cast. The family was told he came within a hair’s breadth of being paralyzed – or worse – had the break pinched his spinal cord.
How’s he feeling? Lucky.
“I should technically be dead or in a wheelchair,” he said.
His mother, Bernie Hebert, wants to get the word out about the importance of helmets for cycling safety.
“We have hopes of seeing about starting a helmet initiative to try to make sure kids have helmets and learn how to wear them properly,” she said.
Ellis thanks his family, friends and medical personnel for their help and support.
His advice to cyclists is simple. “Wear a helmet.”
Suzanne Ryles set up a CIBC fundraising account for Ellis’ family to help with transport for medical followups with his neurosurgeon.