Combining helmets and helicopters to improve safety

photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Tessa Stevens models a helmet and goggles at a ski- and bike-helmet fitting and sale at the old Carson-Tahoe Hospital on Saturday.

photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Tessa Stevens models a helmet and goggles at a ski- and bike-helmet fitting and sale at the old Carson-Tahoe Hospital on Saturday.

The first massive snow of the winter brings with it the renewed desire to strap on the skis and snowboards. For the crew of the Care Flight Helicopter called out for accidents and head injuries on the slopes, the season has a different feel to it.

"I personally took two skiers with head injuries out of Heavenly last year, and it's not a good sight," pilot Andy Sickler said.

He and two flight nurses are among the crews called out for a major head injury when time is of importance or the terrain prevents ground transportation from getting to the victim..

"With head injuries, they could lose their whole life to a disability or worse, and it could have been prevented by a $30 helmet," flight nurse Rich Hamilton said.

So in an effort to increase awareness and safety, Care Flight partnered with the Outpatient Services Department of Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare to provide ski helmets for both children and adults at cost.

"When we were kids, we didn't wear bike helmets or seat belts, and now we put helmets on kids when riding bikes. This is just the next extension of that," said Angie MacCabe, director of outpatient services for Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare. "We want to help prevent these types of injuries because with brain injuries, it becomes tragic."

Through the program, helmets of all sizes will be available at the old hospital in Carson City and the Minden Medical Center. The helmets are Giro multi-sport helmets and cost $45 for older children and adult helmets and $25 for small helmets. Trained staff is also on hand to make sure the helmets are properly fitted.

"You want to make sure it's level so it's not exposing the forehead or the back of the head. Ideally, you want one finger between the eyebrows and the top of the helmet. The strap needs to be tight, and you need to feel it. You should be able to open your jaw, but you don't want it to shift," said Elizabeth Cattell, Care Flight vice-president for consumer relations.

Cattell said the push of the program includes getting parents to wear helmets as well, which is often harder to do because adults believe they have more control.

"They think they can control themselves, but it's not only about running into trees, it could also come from a collision or just hitting the hard slope.

"Last year, the mountains turned into Kevlar, and in 10 days, we had 14 acute spinal or head injuries taken by Care Flight. Ten of those didn't have helmets, and the youngest one was 16 years old. So it doesn't just happen to children," Cattell said.

As a way to bring awareness to the program and highlight services of the Outpatient Services Department, which is at the old Carson-Tahoe Hospital at 775 Fleischmann Way, a Care Flight Helicopter landed in the parking lot Saturday morning.

Children and adults had the chance to do something most people hope they never have to do: see the inside of the helicopter designed to save their life.

"This is a really rewarding program because you can help a lot of people in a short amount of time," Cattell said.

n Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.


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