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Mom, son warn of the dangers of bike riding without a helmet

After a fractured skull and a blood clot in the brain, Jaden and Tiffany Rivera want to spread a message: Always wear helmets when riding bikes.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

It just took one time of riding a bike without a helmet to change Jaden Rivera’s life. After life-saving emergency surgery, Jaden and his mom, Tiffany Rivera, want to share the message that people need to wear a helmet every time they ride a bike.

“Help others be aware of the dangers of riding without the proper safety equipment. This can happen to anyone! The injuries my son had were equal to those in a motorcycle accident,” Tiffany Rivera wrote on a Facebook post that went viral, with almost 33,000 shares.

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At the end of March, Jaden, 11, was staying with some family members and wanted to try out his new bike. When he put on his helmet, it didn’t fit. Everyone figured there was no harm in Jaden riding the bike just this one time without a helmet. But then he fell. When he returned to the house he complained of a scraped knee and elbow but continued playing.

The accident happened on a Monday and when he went home to his mom on Tuesday, he showed her his road rash and complained of the scabbing. But everything else seemed fine.

On Wednesday, things took a turn. After waking, he immediately went to the couch and laid down; he told his mom his head hurt. She noticed a small, squishy bump on his temple, a new injury. Rivera decided to take him to the hospital. As soon as he got into the car he vomited and Rivera knew a trip to the ER was necessary. Doctors conducted a CT scan and discovered the problem. Jaden had a fractured skull and an epidural hematoma, which is bleeding in the brain between skull and the brain’s covering.

Jaden Rivera
Two days after falling off his bike, Jaden Rivera didn't feel well. A trip to the ER revealed that he suffered a fractured skull and epidural hematoma.Tiffany Rivera

“They showed me the CT scan and the abnormality on the brain and the skull fracture. And then I freaked. To me it looked huge,” Rivera tells TODAY.

Doctors needed to perform emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and repair the skull. Without it, Jaden's chances of surviving weren't great.

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“It doesn’t matter where a mass is located compartmentally in the brain. If it is compressing in the brain you are going to have problems,” says Dr. Brett Osborn, a neurosurgeon at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital, who treated Jaden.

Jaden Rivera
Jaden Rivera suffered a fractured skull and epidural hematoma after falling off his bike. He wants to make sure all kids wear their bike helmets every time they ride their bikes.Tiffany Rivera

Osborn says what happened to Jaden seems typical for epidural hematomas. Right after the injury people seem normal.

“You are very very clear and what happens is you go over the proverbial threshold and get real bad, real quick,” he says. The reason? The slow trickle of blood mean the symptoms do not start until the blood pools and impacts the brain.

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Osborn removed the blood clot and repaired the skull without complication. Only three days after the surgery, Jaden was ready to leave the hospital. While it’s almost been two months since the surgery and Jaden has recovered well, he’s not completely healed. He can’t play football and risk re-injuring his brain.

Jaden Rivera
After being in the hospital for three days for a head injury from a bike accident, Jaden Rivera was ready to go home and be active again.Tiffany Rivera

Jaden wants to share his story as a warning to others. He always wore a helmet, but that one time he didn’t he had an accident. His gnarly scar makes him feel self-conscious sometimes. When people gawk at the scar, Jaden says:

“Would you like to know what happened or are you just going to stare at me?”

If people ask what happened, he shares his story and ends with: “This is what happens when you don’t wear a helmet.”

Jaden Rivera
After falling off his bike, Jaden Rivera experienced a fractured skull and epidural hematoma. He and mom, Tiffany Rivera, want to share his story to warn everyone to wear a helmet. 16 mins agoTiffany Rivera

And, Osborn agrees that prevention works best.

“Wear your helmet. Make sure your kids are wearing a properly fitted helmet—and, in the event of injury, make sure they are assessed.”