SUMMERSIDE - Kenneth Murnaghan would be a different man today if he wore a helmet 43 years ago.
While riding his bike at age 10 in Charlottetown, Murnaghan took a fall that has caused a lifetime of pain.
On Saturday he was sharing his story with youth in a helmet safety seminar at Generation XX in Summerside.
“All youth should want to wear a helmet,” said Murnaghan. “I didn’t have a helmet when I was young; I wish I did.”
About 30 youth gathered to hear Murnaghan’s story at the indoor skating park in the city.
“I wasn’t watching where I was going and the bike steered off the road and hit a manhole.”
The next thing he remembers is flying through the air and smashing his head into a parked car.
Murnaghan was rushed to an Island hospital in critical condition.
“The doctors wanted to airlift me but they didn’t think I would make it, so they did the surgery right there.”
Just prior to surgery his parents were informed of the worse.
“The doctors told them the chances of me living were pretty slim, and if I did I was going to be a vegetable.”
Against all odds, Murnaghan made it out of surgery and began rehab. He said the process was slow but he did see improvements.
“At first I was paralyzed on my left side but eventually regained the use of my arm and legs.”
Now he shares his message with local kids, trying to encourage helmet use among people of all ages.
Logan Maddix, the youth board president at Generation XX, hopes Murnaghan’s message hits home with the kids.
“At Gen X we all wear our helmets because we have to, but outside of the building a lot don’t wear them,” said Maddix.
He recalled a case where a helmet may have saved his life.
While mountain biking in New Brunswick he took a 10-foot plunge off a small cliff.
“I fell head first,” he said. “I got up and looked at my helmet, it was completely shattered.”
The 16-year-old said if he wasn’t wearing a helmet he could have suffered brain damage or even death.
While Murnaghan showed the group safety features on a helmet, Gordie Whitlock, general manager of Generation XX looked on.
“He has an important message to share,” said Whitlock. “We tell older members to wear helmets to encourage the younger ones to do the same.”
Over 10 years ago Whitlock made it mandatory for everyone in the skating park to wear one.
“It took quite a while to get the message across. But now everyone has adapted to the rule.”
Murnaghan volunteers his time in hopes of preventing one head injury.
“I’ll do this until everyone wears a helmet.”
The Brain Injury Association of P.E.I. is encouraging all businesses on the Island to let employees wear hats June 26 to raise awareness.
“I wore a hat for two years because my head was shaved and scarred.”
Murnaghan said he doesn’t want people to be naive, just educated.
“A helmet will not prevent a brain injury from happening but it certainly will lessen the blow.”