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Tyerike Cleveland: The Importance of Wearing a Bicycle Helmet

It was a blustery afternoon just like any other last February, when 14-year-old Tyerike Cleveland set off on his bike from his west Houston-area home, riding the trail behind his neighborhood to a nearby subdivision where a friend lived.  He had made the same ride dozens of times and thought nothing of leaving his helmet behind.  After all, he was just making a quick trip to retrieve a borrowed textbook, and didn’t even tell his parents where he was going since he knew he would be right back.

That innocent bike ride turned almost tragic however when a driver in a pickup truck ran a red light where Tyerike was crossing the street, hitting his bike and sending him flying before he landed hard in the middle of the street.  “I blacked out and don’t really remember being hit,” recalled Tyerike.  “I woke up a few seconds later and saw the truck take off, but then I started shaking from being in shock and I blacked out again.”  Passersby immediately called 911 and Tyerike was rushed to a nearby emergency room.

'Longest Ride of My Life'

Meanwhile, Tyerike’s mother Michelle had just left her day job as a billing coding specialist at Mischer Neuroscience Associates, and was settling into her evening college classes where she is earning a business health degree.  “When my husband called my cell phone for the second time when he knew I was in class, I knew something must be terribly wrong,” she said.  “That was the longest ride of my life getting to the emergency room to see Tyerike.”

When she arrived, Michelle and her husband learned that Tyerike had suffered a subdural hematoma from his head injury.  His mother knew from her job that these types of injuries could be life-threatening, and often require immediate surgery.  “We had him transferred to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital immediately,” she said.  “Dr. Shepard and the team from Mischer Neuroscience Institute were right there, ready and waiting for us.”

According to Scott Shepard, M.D., Assistant Professor, Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, subdural hematomas usually occur after a sudden blow to the head, which in turn causes the blood vessels that run alongside the brain’s surface to tear. “This creates a blood clot, which may increase pressure on the brain,” he said.  “Sometimes it spontaneously resolves, which is what we carefully watch, wait and hope for.  If not, surgical intervention is required.”  According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 26,000 children and adolescents are treated in emergency rooms across the country each year for bicycle-related traumatic brain injuries – such as hematomas – as a result of not wearing a helmet.

Thankfully for Tyerike, repeated imaging showed that his hematoma was dissipating.  Although it was also discovered that he had suffered a concussion and a broken elbow, he was discharged after three days and was able to avoid surgery.  “I thank God for Dr. Shepard, Dr. Kitagawa and Dr. Chang,” said Michelle.  “Because of my job, I see every day how the work they do makes a difference, but I never thought I would experience it firsthand.” 

Today, Tyerike has made a full recovery, and hasn’t let his accident interfere with all the activities he enjoys, like drawing, playing his favorite sports such as football and basketball, and yes – riding his bike. “The doctors took such good care of me, and I’m just glad that I can still ride my BMX bike,” he said. “Now I make sure I have my helmet.”