A Lawrence boy who suffered life-threatening injuries in an accident last week is slowly but steadily improving, his father said.
A molded chunk of Styrofoam, a little Velcro, two nylon mesh chin straps.
Simple components went into the helmet that 8-year-old Eric Hyde strapped on before he got on his bicycle and zoomed out of his driveway at 5:45 p.m. March 16.
But a split-second later, when Eric's Schwinn Predator motocross bike collided with a passing car in front of his house at 1605 W. 27th, the helmet's cheap and common ingredients performed a monumental task.
"It's just real lucky that we got him in the habit of wearing a helmet, because that helmet definitely saved his life," said Eric's father, Joe Hyde. "Whoever designed these things is going to heaven when they die."
Hyde said the helmet cushioned and distributed a blow to Eric's right temple, which struck a windshield post of the westbound automobile. The post pounded a deep indentation into the thick Styrofoam shell and caused it to crack on the inside.
"When you look at this helmet, you can use your imagination about what his skull would have looked like if he hadn't been wearing it," Hyde said.
Even with the helmet, Eric suffered life-threatening injuries. The collision left deep bruises in his brain, sending him into a coma that he remained in today. He also suffered two broken collarbones, a broken rib and a slightly punctured lung.
After the accident, Eric was flown by helicopter to the Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., where the boy was admitted in critical condition.
"He was in a total coma," Hyde said. "He was hardly moving or responding to anything, although he was breathing on his own. They told us at the hospital that if the swelling got bad, there was a chance we could lose him.
"A couple of times, you felt like the executioner was getting ready to knock on your door."
Today, Eric was listed in serious but stable condition today at KUMC as doctors continued to monitor his brain injury and take steps to prevent swelling.
"He's doing better," Hyde said. "After the latest CT (computerized tomography) scans, the doctors told us that the brain bruises are starting to dissipate."
Hyde said his son, a second-grader at Broken Arrow School, had opened his eyes and was responding to some stimuli. He said Eric had gone from level one or two to level three of an eight-tier scale doctors use to evaluate the severity of a coma. Level one is total unresponsiveness; eight is near-complete recovery.
Hyde said the accident was unavoidable. The driver, Cynthia K. Nitcher, 42, 2804 Harrison Ave., and a witness told officers they barely saw Eric before the collision.
Hyde said he felt sorry for Nitcher, who was not cited.
"She was just at the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "She didn't do anything at all wrong."