The Helmet That Saved My Life

Yesterday I received a SnapChat message from my younger sister that sent a wave of memories flooding back. The photos were taken clear back in 2007 when I was a young college sophomore attending school at Dixie State in St. George, Utah.

I couldn't help but laugh at the image of a ticked-off, injured, dirty Kristy. The girl in the photo had some bruised ribs, a torn AC joint, and other "flesh wounds." 

She would have to go through a 6-month recovery process involving ultrasound and heat therapy to get her shoulder and arm to work properly again. Dance would be painful for her--her #1 passion--but she would do it anyway, as she had blazed through many injuries in her life previously.

What I laughed most at, though, was the emotion behind the eyes of this girl in the photo. While others close to me may know this look, I know it best. It screams:

I knew better, yet I did it anyway.

I've always loved to go fast. My older brothers' examples of speed and slick driving had worn off on me as their idolizing younger sister, so whether I was in the car, on a bike, dirt-bike, or four-wheeler, my need for speed was manifest. 

On a blazing hot summer day, my family took a day trip to Pine Valley Mountain (45 mountains North of St. George) to spend time at some friends' cabin. After riding the horses, we broke out their four-wheelers and commenced to ride the trails that weaved across the mountain. After an hour or so, my siblings grew tired and headed inside for something to eat. I kept going as it would be a lot more fun with them out of the way. I could go faster and try some of the jumps at full speed.

Though I lacked the wisdom to don appropriate riding attire (this would prove to be the second incident in my life where my tank-top-and-shorts outfit would be a dangerous oversight  in the debate of safety versus tan lines), I did have enough intellect to keep my helmet on.

Odors of gasoline and dust wafted through the air as I rode and kept the engine gunned. On certain curves, a little voice of caution began to surface in my heart, telling me to slow down and be more moderate--especially because I was out there alone. 

I quickly suppressed that voice of warning as I felt superior to incidents, and was above exercising caution. I could handle the four-wheeler and I was a brave soul. After all, racing around the trails like my brothers would made me feel I was "cool" like them. I admired Denz and Brand, and wanted to be a cool person like them.

I found much more control at these speeds when I wasn’t seated, but leaning forward over the handlebars in a hunched position, braced against the jostling. I could move as one with the machine. If someone saw me, they would know how brave I was.

I rounded the next curve at full speed, and saw something that caused my heart to jump into my throat.

The jump. 

The jump that I had taken going the other direction as the trail from which I came was straight and gave me space to land and accelerate into the next curve. The trail to which I was headed was curved. I would have no room to land, let alone accelerate into the curve And I was about to hit this jump. At full speed. And not make the turn.

As I was mid-air, all I could think was I know better! I know better! I should have slowed down!! I'm going to die!

 I was going to hit that tree straight-on. I braced myself for the worst.

When I came to, the four-wheeler was on top of me, my arm pinned awkwardly below me, and I couldn’t breathe. Terror engulfed me as I realized no one was within a mile of me. I was there all alone. No one would be able to help me. I would have to get through this by myself. But at least I was alive...

Don’t panic, I willed myself. Breathe deeply. Let’s do this one thing at a time. First off, you need to breathe. Let’s get the helmet off.

The helmet strap was cutting off my circulation. With shaking hands and forced, raspy breaths, I unbuckled the helmet and breathed deeper. Pain shot through my rib cage, but I was one step closer to being okay. Wait, was I okay? My ribs screamed and I thought I had broken some. White, hot pain stabbed between my collar bone and top of the shoulder bone. Had I broken my collar bone?

Next, I had to get the four-wheeler off me. With the best logic I could muster given my panic and pain, I brainstormed how to get the machine off that was pinning me down. I couldn’t use my arms, so I would have to use my free leg. With all the strength of a Decline Leg Press 1RM (one-rep-max for those new to gym lingo--I'll teach you this on my YouTube Exercise Demo channel), I hefted the machine off my other leg and torso. The machine landed on all four wheels and began rolling down the embankment. Worried that more damage would be done to the machine, I did my best to will my aching, bleeding body out of the weeds and chase it down (the engine was still idling). I turned off the machine, thinking it was too broken to ride, and began limping back to the cabin.

5 minutes later, I broke into tears as I saw my dad quickly walking toward me. 

“Are you okay?” he called. 

All I could do was shake my head and keep walking toward the person who always made me feel safe in any situation. As he got closer, he told me he had heard the engine idling, then stop, and knew he needed to check to see if everything was okay. I am so grateful that he did! He got me back to my mom and sisters who helped clean me up and give me the care I needed.

Wearing a helmet probably saved my life. I will always be grateful I did.

Refusing to listen to my conscious telling me to slow down was my mistake. I haven’t made that mistake since, and have not been in a significant accident since this occasion (knock on wood J).

What’s the lesson here?

I knew better, yet I did it anyway.

Ahhhh, how many of us are guilty of this? 

How many negative situations could be avoided if were to simply listen to our conscious, or the whisperings of the Holy Ghost?

As our good friend, Elder Henry B. Eyering reminds us, the Holy Ghost helps us watch over ourselves. We receive warnings that not only protect us physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Those whisperings of the Holy Ghost help guide us to greater happiness... if we will listen.

I am grateful for the memory jog these photos gave me of this important lesson to listen to those little thoughts and feelings I have. I know they will lead me to safety and greater happiness as I seek to be obedient to them. I hope we all can be a little safer as we seek to be obedient.

... and ALWAYS wear a helmet :) 

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