By Andrew Mitchell
Whistler’s Todd Hellinga was having a great day riding his mountain bike in Pemberton in early April when disaster struck. Just a few hundred metres from the bottom of a trail called Grumpy Grouse he was landing a small jump when his forks snapped. He was driven into the ground head first, no time to even put his arms up.
The result was three compressed vertebrae, a fractured skull, a concussion, and a broken eardrum, resulting in a five-day hospital stay. He is expected to make a strong recovery, although he is facing several months of physiotherapy once his neck brace comes off and may require some surgery to help his hearing.
The experience left him with a greater appreciation for our health care system, but concerned by the lack of health care options in the Sea to Sky corridor. He was taken to four hospitals after being loaded into an ambulance, stopping first at Pemberton to find that the X-Ray attendant was not on duty, then moved to Whistler for his first X-Rays. Doctors then sent him down to Lions Gate Hospital for a CT Scan, concerned about the possibility of brain swelling or spinal cord damage, stopping at the hospital in Squamish for more Gravol.
When he heard that some friends in Whistler were planning on hosting a Samurai slideshow and fundraiser for him, he declined the offer of money and instead asked to make the event a fundraiser to bring a CT scanner to Whistler.
“I’m not that hard up for money and will be back to work pretty soon, but I had just read a story that Whistler was $100,000 short of getting a CT scanner,” he said. “Until I got to Lions Gate there was no way to tell if my brain was swelling or what was going on, and it really highlighted the lack of critical care equipment in the valley.
“I’ve talked with other people who have had this kind of injury, but didn’t know they were injured because the problem didn’t show up in X-Rays. People know how useful a CT scan would be in a place like this where people have those kinds of injuries. It’s a good cause and chance for mountain biking to give back to the valley.”
Hellinga has been helping to organize the fundraiser, which is scheduled for Friday, May 11, and is being called It Could Happen To You.
The event starts off with a mountain bike criterium on Cut Yer Bars sanctioned by WORCA, then moves on to Dusty’s for a Samurai of Singletrack slideshow, biker bingo, and prize draws. Sign-on for the crit is at 5:30 p.m. at Myrtle Philip, while the Dusty’s fundraiser starts at 8 p.m. Hellinga himself has been getting the draw prizes together and has been amazed by the response.