Toboggan injury a cautionary tale

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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After almost a month in the hospital last winter, local boy Michael Ethier and his father, Dean, have a word of warning for others out tobogganing or sledding. 

Michael Ethier, 11, and father Dean Ethier are seen in their home this week, cautioning others to learn from their experience and play safe while tobogganing. 

After almost a month in the hospital last winter, local boy Michael Ethier and his father, Dean, have a word of warning for others out tobogganing or sledding.

“You live day to day and you don’t really realize that in 10 minutes your whole life can change,” Dean said. “That’s a lesson learned.”

The injury took place on March 3, when Michael, 10 at the time, made his inaugural slide down a hill in a saucer -- a circular sled.

“His saucer lost control and turned him backwards at the same time,” Dean said.

“He was going down a narrow path and he went off and hit a tree to the back of his head.”

After calling 911, paramedics arrived on the scene quickly, Dean said, and did an incredibly careful job of lugging Michael down the hill.

Michael was transported to the Victoria Hospital, where Dean was told his son’s brain was bleeding and that he had to be transported to a hospital in Saskatoon.

“We stayed the night, and then they did another CT scan, and they said the bleeding had gotten worse, so they had to remove some of his skullcap,” Dean said.

“They drugged him so he would be sleeping in a drug-induced coma … and the doctors didn’t know where he was going to be at when he came out, or if he came out.”

After about five days, doctors brought Michael out of coma began the rehabilitation process and put his skullcap back into place.

He remained in hospital for about three weeks.

“The huge bandages were so annoying,” Michael said. “You couldn’t put a hat on or anything!

You live day to day and you don’t really realize that in 10 minutes your whole life can change. Dean Ethier

“The doctor said there’d be about two months where I wouldn’t be allowed to play any sports, and that really sucked.”

With his life back to normal now, minus a scar hidden under his head of hair, Michael has joined his father in warning people to play safe.

“We got off lucky, and that’s why we feel strongly that we have to share this with people, because where we’ve been given another chance … we feel that we should do something with that,” Dean said.

“Everything happens for a reason, so we feel that our reason is to help others to not have that same experience that we had.

The key message is one of safety. With children “daredevils, sometimes,” Dean said that it’s up to both parents and children to make sure the proper safety precautions are being undertaken.

“Kids don’t like helmets, but I would rather they be angry with you for the hour than to have to go through (Michael’s) experience.”

Even parents surveying toboggan hills beforehand to point out where their children should or should not slide down would be a step in the right direction, he added.

“I just want people to realize how serious just a little tobogganing … I never, ever, thought that they could go that fast to get hurt that badly, but he almost died because of it.”

Organizations: Victoria Hospital

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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  • Barefoot Mick
    November 25, 2012 - 22:56

    Dean and Michael I want to comment you for bringing this story to the media's attention. Accidents at home or at play cause and estimated 100,000 injuries or worse.