A Cautionary Tale On Sledding And Safety

To the Editor:

Downhill sled riding can be dangerous.  Two weeks ago, on a cloudy afternoon, I decided to take my children to Treadwell Park for some fun sled riding.

The children hopped off the bus after school and excitedly got dressed for some fun in the snow.  My kids were ecstatic!  The hill was well groomed from riders the day before and there were a few nicely built jumps on the lower portion of the trail for an additional thrill!

My gut was telling me something was not right. We had just received 12 inches of snow and sleet in Newtown.  The ride was going to be rough, maybe too rough for my little ones, ages, 9, 7, and 5 because of the thin layer of ice on top of the snow.   Of course, it didn’t bother the children. They immediately took to the slopes and began their descent.

The kids each had their foam mega riders and the use of two bouncy snow tubes....everyone was having fun.  Everyone was riding over the jumps, “catching air” and landing safely on the tube!

It was getting near dark and the children all lined up at the top of the hill I decided to take a ride down on the tube.  Honestly, I don’t remember much of the ride down the hill that day, I only remember feeling terrified of the speed.  My daughter told me later in the hospital that I had done a complete back flip once I flew into the air from the jump.  Thankfully, my friend was there to call 911.  An emergency crew from Sandy Hook Fire Department arrived shortly after and I was on my way to safety at Danbury Hospital.

The neurosurgeon diagnosed me with a T-12 Compression Fracture, meaning the number 12 vertebra on the thoracic portion of the spine was damaged. There is no need for surgery and healing only requires 12 weeks of rest and a back brace.

As a word of caution to my fellow daredevil moms, dads and caregivers out there, think before you ride! These are my tips to prevent an injury while sleigh riding this season!

1.          Choose a sled that you can control with your body! You cannot control a TUBE!!

2.          A location with an empty open area at the bottom of the course allows the rider to glide to a stop.

3.          Avoid sledding in icy conditions.

4.          Sled during daylight hours only; visibility is reduced at night.

5.          Send the kids in a helmet if they are 12 years of younger to protect their head and neck.

6.          Sit in a Forward Facing position.  Don’t allow your child to ride head first as this increase the risk for head injury.

7.          Always have an adult supervising in case there is an accident!!

Thank you to the EMTs who helped me that evening!

Heidi Verdi

7 Bradley Lane, Sandy Hook               February 19, 2014

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