Pat Ramsey MLA is spearheading the introduction of legislation that will make it illegal for children to cycle without a helmet. And the Donnelly family of Strabane - who know all about the dangers involved in cycling - are fully supportive of the bill. They recently travelled to government buildings to show that support.
Michelle Donnelly’s 11 year-old daughter, Orlaith, suffered a fractured skull, bleeding on the brian and a hairline crack in the back of her neck after falling from a bike last August. Her injuries were so serious her family were told by medical staff: “If she recovers it’s a possibility she will have brain damage.”
That stark warning was given less than an hour after Orlaith fell off her bike. She was not wearing protective headgear. Despite initially showing no ill effects Orlaith became unconcious enroute to hospital. Her mother said: “It was terrible, we were gobsmacked by the whole incident. Orlaith came into the house perfectly normal then within an hour she was unconcious.
“The worst part was following the ambulance to Belfast. We didn’t know if our daughter was alive or dead. When they wheeled her out into the ambulance to take her to the Royal all her clothes were cut off and her head was strapped up. She didn’t look like my daughter at all - her head had changed that much.”
Orlaith underwent four hour brain surgery.
“Waiting on the surgery was terrible. We could hear every step in that hospital it was so silent.”
The accident occurred at 7pm. It was 5.40am beore the surgeon told the family:
“We removed a large clot from her brain and time will tell if she will make a full recovery.”
That recovery continues.
Orlaith now supports the proposed legislation. Her mother said: “She gets quite angry when she sees someone cycling without a helmet. I would rather have had a £50 fine for her not wearing a helmet rather than go through what we did. Thank God she is almost 100% recovered now. The suppo rt we got from Strabane at the time was magnificent, so I’d like to thank them for that.”