Teen has a head for safety after near-death stack
FROM now on I'm a helmet head. That's the verdict from a teenager who almost lost his life on May 25 while skateboarding at high speed down a Gladstone hill.
Matt Bonney, 14, told The Observer his stance on helmets had changed since copping a serious head injury in the accident.
He was travelling down the steep hill adjacent to Tondoon Botanic Gardens when he took a spill.
Matt was in hospital for a time recovering from the injury that left him with two blood clots between his brain and skull and two fractures to the skull.
Matt said the next time he tackled a steep hill, he would be wearing head protection.
He also said he had been blown away by the support of his mates and the Gladstone community.
"Going down hills or on a bike, I would definitely say to people wear a helmet," Matt said. "I was proud of my mates and shocked I got that much support."
Off-duty police officer Mick Newell and wife Katriona discovered Matt at the base of the hill after the accident.
Their quick thinking and the help of two off-duty paramedics also in the area meant Matt had a quick recovery.
While Matt could not cannot recall the moments following his "speed wobbles," he said he remembered waking up in Gladstone Base Hospital some time later.
He was then transferred to Brisbane so medical professionals could get a better understanding of his head injury.
It was there the two blood clots between his brain and skull, and two fractures to the skull, were confirmed.
Matt also has several deep scars as a permanent reminder of the ordeal.
The trauma was made worse by the absence of his parents who were vacationing in Fiji on their first overseas holiday.
While his mum Tammy wonders exactly how much teenagers need to be reminded of what can go wrong, she said her son had learnt his lesson.
"I've nagged him that many times to wear a helmet," she said.
"Hopefully other kids can take something away from his experience and realise how important helmets are."
A Facebook page, No Helmets No Wheels Support for Matt Bonney, was created hours after the accident.
In a strong show of solidarity for their young mate, more than 900 people joined the group, posting photos of themselves wearing helmets.
However, Mrs Bonney questioned whether the page would have long term benefits.
"Do I think it will make teenagers wear helmets? Probably not," she said. "I just don't think they realise that life can change so quickly.
"It does happen and Matt was incredibly lucky."
Mrs Bonney said the biggest learning curve for her son was witnessing other teenagers in hospital who acted as a sombre warning on how life could have easily turned out a lot differently him.
High school friend and neighbour Jaiden Crane, also 14, said he would never risk riding without head gear.
"I would never go anywhere without it," he said.
He also wanted to share the safety message with other Gladstone teens.
"Wear a helmet," he implored.
Mayor Gail Sellers also urged young people to put safety first.
"Skateboarding, scooter riding and freestyle BMX are inherently risky activities," Cr Sellers said.
"That is part of the attraction for young people.
"Council encourages all skate park users to wear protective clothing and a helmet at all times."
Matt has refocused his attention on his family and the future ahead of him.
Now a student at Toolooa High School, the 14-year-old said he was concentrating on studies and aiming for a career in chemical engineering or as a stuntman.
The teenager has promised to save money to pay for the remaining half of the holiday his family was forced to cut short.