Skateboard accident inspires helmet talk

Published 10:20 pm Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From left, speaker and founder of the Lynn A. Chiaverotti Memorial Fund, Gary Chiaverotti, Jacob Neely, Caleb Warne, Ethan Gamble, Christian Torres, Krissa Franklin, Alex Franklin and Kenny Couch wear Brain Helmets. The Lynn A. Chiaverotti Memorial Fund of the Brain Injury Association of America provided the helmets that are designed to look like brains. Chiaverotti measured all of the students for their helmets including eighth grade student, Alex Franklin who had a nearly fatal traumatic brain injury.

The best advice that John Yeates Middle School student Alex Franklin can give anyone is always protect your head.

Alex suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell off of his skateboard while “skitching” — holding onto a car while it pulled him along on his skateboard — in November. He and his mother and sister attended a John Yeates Parent Teacher Association meeting Feb. 15 to support wearing helmets when skating and biking.

“It’s been a long road,” said Amber Franklin, Alex’s mother. “I don’t want to see any parent go through what I went through. It’s the worst thing you could ever go through.”

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PTA president Gloria Lorey presented Alex’s story. When paramedics arrived at the scene of his accident, they found him unresponsive, barely breathing and making a gurgling sound. He was transported to Sentara BelleHarbour and was quickly transferred to Norfolk General, where he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

Alex suffered cranial bleeding, had brain swelling that caused intense pressure and had a tube placed in his brain to keep it from rupturing. Doctors initially thought he was paralyzed. He had to learn to eat and drink again.

Alex continues to attend therapy three times a week, and he will probably always have scars to remind him of the incident. Now he tells friends, “It’s not cool not to wear a helmet,” Amber said. “He’s learned his lesson from this. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but he’s learned his lesson.”

“Wear a helmet.” Alex said he’d tell his friends. “I’d tell them about what I went through.”

Amber said she believes her son’s injuries would have been less extensive if he had been wearing a helmet.

“It’s very important, and that’s why I came tonight — to stress that to everybody and make sure their kids wear helmets,” she said.

The PTA wanted to hold an event with a health and safety theme, Lorey said. After hearing Alex’s story, PTA officials decided to make the theme of the event avoiding traumatic brain injuries.

“You need to protect your head and your brain,” said Gary Chiaverotti, a speaker at the event and founder of the Lynn A. Chiaverotti Memorial Fund of the Brain Injury Association of America.

The fund helps to pay for and distribute free “brain helmets” across the nation.

Chiaverotti said everyone can protect and strengthen their brains by eating nutritiously, wearing a seat belt, drinking water and more.

Wearing a bike helmet can reduce your chances for injuries by 85 percent, he said. “Always, always, always wear your helmet,” he said. “If you fall and it’s a good fall, get rid of the helmet (and get a new one).”