Use Your Head - Gregor Samuels Story
GREGOR SAMUELS, 17
"If I hadn't worn a helmet, I might not be here"
Gregor, now 17, has been passionate about snowboarding since the age of 8, spending every minute on the snowy slopes near his home in the Scottish town of Grantown on Spey, just 15 miles north of Aviemore. From the very beginning, his parents insisted he and his younger sister wear a helmet for snowboarding, as well as for cycling and skateboarding.
Gregor's dream of being a professional snowboarder came a step closer when he was accepted into the British Freestyle Snowboarding Team. He travelled with the team accompanied by one of his parents; and then in November 2010 he took his first trip away with the team without his parents, to Keystone Resort, Colorado, one of the best snowboarding resorts in the world.
In his first week there, Gregor enjoyed exploring the slopes and working on his style. On 8 December he was practicing a new trick when he fell approximately 15 feet from a jump. He was alone, but the accident was seen by a ski patroller passing on a nearby ski lift who raised the alarm. Within 3 minutes of the accident a first responder arrived at Gregor's side to find him unconscious and fitting.
Immediately airlifted to St Anthony Hospital in Denver, Gregor had suffered a lacerated liver, a fractured pelvis and remained unconscious for two weeks. He doesn't recall the accident, but does remember that day, as usual, he wore his Protec Classic helmet, a spine defender and padded underwear beneath his snowboarding clothes. When he emerged from the coma a month after the accident, he felt no pain.
The first responders at Keystone and the medical staff at St Anthony Hospital agreed that wearing a helmet saved Gregor from more serious injury, and even from death.
Back home in Scotland and thirteen months on, Gregor has undergone an intensive rehabilitation programme including physiotherapy, speech therapy and psychological care. He works hard at the gym twice a week to rebuild strength in his right side and continues with a tough physiotherapy regime. He's been back on the slopes, practicing slides: "it feels great to be back on the snow".
Gregor said: "Wear your helmet, you never know what may happen. They are lightweight, don't obstruct your vision and can help save your life."
SUZANNE SAMUELS, 49
"It could have been so much worse if he hadn't worn a helmet."
"I put my head in my hands at first but within 24 hours I flew 5,000 miles to his hospital bedside."
Mother of two, Suzanne, a 49-year paramedic living near Aviemore in Scotland sees the aftermaths of accidents every day, and as a consequence always insists her children wear helmets while cycling, skateboarding and snowboarding.
Her son Gregor, now 17, dreamed of being a professional snowboarder and spent every spare minute on the slopes near the family home, practicing technique and building fitness. His dream seemed within reach when he was accepted in to the British Freestyle Snowboarding Team and began to train and travel with them.
In November 2010 Gregor went to Keystone Resort in Colorado, one of the top snowboarding spots in the world, and Suzanne looked forward to seeing him again for Christmas after a few weeks of training. On 8 December, while out with an ambulance, she received the call that every parent dreads: Gregor had been involved in an accident 5,000 miles away from home and was unconscious in the intensive care unit of St Antony Hospital, Denver. Suzanne's local community rallied round to sort out work shifts and child care, and within 24 hours she was at Gregor's bedside in Colorado.
"One of the first things the doctors told me on the phone was that Gregor had been wearing his helmet at the time of the accident. Even then, that gave me hope. When I arrived, the hospital staff frequently commented that without his helmet, Gregor would've been in much worse shape. I placed his helmet, which was only scuffed, on his bedside table."
Back home, Suzanne has helped Gregor through the past 13 months of intensive rehabilitation, including physiotherapy, speech therapy and psychological care, and is proud that he has once again taken to the slopes, albeit tentatively: "Without a doubt, wearing a helmet saved my son from more severe injury or worse. The latest helmets don't get in the way, they're lightweight and even trendy. Always wear a helmet, it really can save your life."