For most teens, safety is an afterthought when it comes to things as riding a bike or skateboarding down the street. When that happens, accidents sometimes end with trying times or tragic consequences.
Thankfully, that result is not always the case.
Gretna’s Joy Cotton, 16, was involved in such an accident in early June, resulting in her push for helmet safety.
Joy said her accident happened June 9 while skateboarding with her friend, Hayley Quade.
“I don’t have much memory of the accident,” she said. “My friend was in front of me, and when she turned around, I was on the ground.”
At the time of the accident, she said all that was apparent was some bleeding from her ear. Rather than try and help Joy, Quade called emergency responders.
“She called 911 immediately,” said Adrian Cotton, Joy’s father.
Adrian said once Gretna paramedics arrived, they used his daughter’s cellphone to contact the family. She had fractured her skull and was flown to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
“She stayed in the ICU for approximately 10 days,” he said.
After her hospital stay, she spent time in the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. Adrian said his daughter was in the two hospitals for roughly two weeks.
“Right now, she’s had a fantastic recovery,” he said.
He said the hospital staff were amazed at the speed of her recovery, adding she is already getting back in to her normal routine.
Still, he said, it was a rocky road for a short time.
“It’s surreal seeing your daughter on a ventilator for 10 days,” he said.
Additionally, his wife, Yvonne, is a nurse practitioner at UNMC. He praised his wife’s ability to act as both a professional nurse and a caring mother at the same time, often explaining their daughter’s condition.
“As a health care professional, she knew (Joy) wasn’t out of the woods until she was out of the woods,” he said.
In this time of recovery, Adrian said the Gretna community has shown overwhelming support, receiving encouragement from friends, neighbors and Gretna Public Schools.
He also said his family is very appreciative for the quick thinking of Quade, the speed of the Gretna Volunteer Fire Department and the care of UNMC.
“Everyone was just phenomenal,” he said.
Now that his daughter is approaching a full recovery, he said she wants to use her story to teach others the importance of helmet safety.
“The importance of helmets at any age, kids especially, is so important,” he said.
Joy herself said she realizes now how lucky she was her accident was not more serious, though it was only after friends and family explained exactly what happened to her.
“I didn’t realize how close of a bad situation it was,” she said.
She said after learning just how close she came to permanent damage or fatal consequences, she found a new desire to share the importance of safety with others her age and younger, starting with her younger brother A.J. She said she bought him a longboard skateboard, but gave the condition he always needed to have someone present with him and always had to wear a helmet.
“Just because I am a teenager doesn’t mean I have the right to be stupid and not wear that protection,” she said. “If I wore a helmet, this wouldn’t have happened.”
She said she wants to help kids want to wear their helmets, even if it means going as far as bedazzling, or decorating, helmets for little girls. Still, she said, looking cool is not more important than safety.
“It is not worth dying for,” Joy said. “Safety — when you’re young especially — is a main priority.”