Charles Ottewell, Diana Samarakkody and Shannon Piedt, on behalf of the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Team in Child and Youth Injury Prevention for Think First BC, recently gave a presentation on brain injury prevention to school children across Hope in an effort to bring awareness and to educate the youth on the proper preventative measures necessary to avoid potentially life-threatening and debilitating outcomes from participating in careless behaviour.
Shanon Piedt engaged the school children in an interactive manner, as she chose several volunteers from the audience and demonstrated the ins and outs of good safety measures in conjunction with the inner workings involving the connectivity of the hemispheres in the brain to the different physical parts of the body.
Children tried on bike helmets and learned the proper way of positioning the helmet, as the fit and condition of the protection device came to the forefront of discussion.
“It’s two fingers from the eyebrows to the top of the helmet,” said Piedt.
Having the proper fit is key to preventing injury according to Piedt, who cautioned the children that a loose bike helmet is just as dangerous as going completely unprotected.
After using an egg as an example of what happens when a bike helmet is used as opposed to the end result of an unprotected head, a new helmet was given to a volunteer student-demonstrator by the name of Brady.
“It could be something small — even hitting a rock the wrong way and then you fall off your bike — if you’re wearing your helmet properly it’s no big deal, but if unprotected it can result in a debilitating injury that can severely alter your life forever,” said Piedt.
A 12 year-old boy by the name of Jonathon experienced a similar trauma and it changed his life dramatically.
On the way over to his friend Simon’s house, which was only three blocks away, Jonathon never made it; instead, he ended up in a coma at the hospital that lasted two weeks.
Jonathon failed to wear a bike helmet, hit a small rock, smashed his head on the concrete and sustained a giant bruise on his brain resulting in troubles with speech, long term and short term memory problems and the necessity of having to wear diapers after losing control of his bodily functions.
After several heart rending cautionary tales involving the dangers of engaging in sports without a helmet, brain injury survivor Charles Ottewell got up with the help of his cane and told a captivated audience about the trauma he underwent at the tender age of 17. During a rugby game Ottewell was tackled and suffered a severe and life-altering brain injury.
“With brain injuries everything is embarrassing,” he said.
Suffering from incontinence and the inability to speak properly or even tie his shoe laces, Ottewell strongly cautioned the children about taking proper precautions before engaging in any type of sport.
Ottewell worked hard at recovery but still walks with a cane and struggles with speech and sleep.
The inability of his brain to engage in regular sleep patterns has left Charles in an insomniac state, which includes chronic tiredness and he is unable to work.
His passion was evident as he spoke about his own struggles with brain injury and the necessity of using his life as an example, while educating people about the potential dangers of not wearing proper protective gear.
“This is not the life you want,” he said.