This Helmet Saved My Life: An Employee Spotlight

This Helmet Saved My Life: An Employee Spotlight

Helmets save lives. It is pure and simple. If you crash and you are wearing a helmet properly you have a better chance at surviving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the past few years, only about 1 in 10 fatally injured bicyclists WERE wearing a helmet. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have helmet laws, but none of these laws apply to all riders, only young riders. Just because you turn 16 does it mean your brain is any less important? As the days are getting longer I am seeing more and more people out on roads riding their bicycles without helmets. This is just flat out a bad move. Recently, EMS Waterford employee and bike helmet advocate Christine Richards spoke with local students about helmet safety. Here is her story of how a helmet saved her life.

Christine talking to students


The day was January 2, 2007. I was so excited to had finally become a year round rider. Who would have thought all you needed was the proper gear? So what if I had to wear 3 layers of tops and bottoms? So what if you could barely see my face? Every part of my body was covered, I looked like the Michelin Man but I could now ride year round! On this day the temperature was in the 30s. I was dressed for it, my helmet fit especially snug due to my ear warmers. I was planning on an all day ride, aiming for the Rhode Island beaches, but I didn’t even make it a mile from my house. I was going down my first hill when, before I knew what happened, I was slammed into the pavement. Every ounce of air was knocked out of me. My first thought, “Am I paralyzed?” No, I could move my feet. Then I realized I had pieces of my teeth in my mouth that I was spitting out. “Am I dying?” I don’t remember much but I do remember knowing I was not doing well. A blanket was put over me, I heard sirens. After being carefully placed on a stretcher and put in the ambulance I was off to the hospital. With my husband by my side the doctors gave me the news: broken back, broken right collar bone, both wrists broken, left thumb and index finger all broken. I also had multiple bruises, scrapes, scratches, and the chipped teeth. But I was alive. My helmet had saved my life! While multiple parts of my body were broken, my head was ok. My helmet had absorbed the force of the impact. It did its job and took the fractures and breaks.

The helmet

I was bed ridden for 3 months and out of work for 6. It was never a question of if I would get back on my bike but when. During this time I was taught many lessons. There was a new found hope in the kindness of strangers, community, and the well being of others. There was food left every day at my door, fundraising events, cards and banners for my girl’s classrooms, housecleaners, daycare, movies, and flowers. There was also pain, recovery, back brace, casts, sadness, depression, tears, and darkness. But it was the 6 year old boy that brought in to school his piggy bank and dumped it out on his teacher’s desk saying, “give this to the girl with the broken back.” The blanket hand sewn from a local church and the never before met neighbor who seemed to be right out of a Disney movie complete with her bright bonnet and wicker basket holding homemade soup, bread, and cookies. After months of intense physical therapy I had my first ride again. It was an emotional day making a ride with my two girls to their school. I never thought a 5 mile ride could be so hard. Slowly my confidence and strength were growing and I made my big “comeback” in Austin, Texas at the 100 mile Livestrong Challenge. Here I met Lance Armstrong, starting the ride one row behind him on a borrowed custom built pink and purple road bike. I crossed the finish line with tears running down my face. I had come so far.

My bike is so much more to me than a bike, it is a symbol of life. It is part of me. I bike when I am happy, I bike when I am sad. I bike because I can and I ALWAYS wear my helmet. Life is so unpredictable, you have no idea what lies ahead. It was a four inch long stick that got caught in my wheel that fateful January day. There was no one to blame, but a Giro helmet that I will forever be thankful for.

The stick that caused the crash

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Amy Parulis

A former captain of the University of North Carolina track team, Amy now spends her days influencing young minds as a second grade teacher. By night she influences the outdoors as an EMS guide in Waterford, CT. Somewhere in between, she finds time to get outdoors to ride her bike, kayak, and hike. Her favorite hike was to the crater rim of Mt. St. Helens where she witnessed a steaming lava dome and she some day hopes to summit Mt. Rainier.

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