WYOMING, Mich. — Whether he’s racing past his little sisters or practicing his jump shot, 8-year-old Jackson Chamberlain loves to move.
“Jackson is the super-active climber, no-fear kid,” said Kerri Chamberlain, his mom.
Kerri says at times it's tough to keep up with Jackson, but she cherishes the moments where she can see him play.
“If he would’ve hit somewhere else, the outcome would’ve been really different,” said Kerri. “We’re just really, really grateful.”
This time last year, Jackson found himself confined to a bed at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital after he crashed into a tree while sledding at Provin Trails in northeast Kent County.
“I remember saying, ‘Does anybody else think this is unsafe?’” said Kerri. “I saw the trees; I saw how fast he was going. He went down… and I saw his head just slam into a tree at the bottom and his body fell.”
Doctors said Jackson fractured his skull, which caused a slight brain bleed. He also broke his sinus cavities.
Jackson stayed in the hospital for four days, then was ordered to limited activity for the next few months.
Following a four-day hospital stay, Jackson was then ordered to limited activity.
“Seeing him in that state, not knowing if he would live or die to be honest, seeing him unconscious, it was really scary,” said Kerri.
According to DeVos Children’s Hospital, the hospital saw a “significant increase” in sledding accidents last year.
On average, doctors treated one to three children who were hurt while sledding each week, on top of the 5 to 10 kids who came in with injuries from other winter sports like ice skating and skiing.
“We’ve seen some significant, pretty life-altering injuries for some kids,” said Amber Mieras, pediatric trauma coordinator. “We really weren’t able to find an exact reason as to what caused [the increase].”
The 2021–2022 winter season has brought a slower start, but Mieras attributes it to the lack of snow.
With this week’s forecasted storm, Mieras is using families to put a helmet on their child in addition to any other recommended equipment.
“Any time they’re doing anything that moves them quicker than their own two feet, it’s a good idea to have a helmet on. We don’t know where that sled is going to go,” said Mieras. “We can fix extremities; we can fix those types of problems, but head injuries are... they can be very difficult and they can be long term.”
Mieras also recommends people choose safe, open spaces that are meant for cold-weather activities.
“Make sure that you are in areas where you’re not going to possibly be hit by a car or strike trees as you’re going down the hill,” said Mieras. “If you’re skiing, go to a designated area.”