Wear a Helmet

By Astrid Popovici

A few weeks ago, on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, I got bored of my chemistry homework and decided to go biking.  I went up a nearby mountain, pedaling until my legs burned on the uphills and smiling like an idiot as I enjoyed the brief downhills.  

And then my bike slipped.  The last thing I remember is the sinking realization that I had lost control, and there was nothing I could do to regain it.  Some time later, I woke up in the middle of the road with a neck brace on.  There was a group of people standing around me and a line of cars backed up where traffic had been stopped.

I had had a concussion and been unconscious for at least 5 minutes.  While driving, a woman and her husband—Carole and Kevin—had found me lying in the road and called an ambulance.

“We’re taking you to the hospital,” a paramedic told me.

“Why?” I asked.  

They took me to the ER and did some scans and tests. Fortunately, I didn’t have any injuries besides the concussion and a few scrapes and bruises.  My helmet cracked in the crash.

A few days later, after I was feeling a little better, I called the woman who had found me unconscious.  She and her husband almost never drove in the mountains, she explained, because she got carsick on the windy roads.  Because of that, they had been driving very slowly—around 20 mph in a place where many people did 35.  I was just around a blind turn, and if it hadn’t been for their slow speed, she told me, they probably would have run me over before they had time to stop.

I got incredibly lucky that day.  Thank God.

In many ways, this year hasn’t turned out the way we’ve hoped it would.  But none of that really matters.  I’m just happy to be alive. 

I have so much gratitude for everything I got to experience in high school.  I’m grateful for Anna Hanuska, Georgia Wyess, and all the other friends who’ve made my life a little brighter in these four years—I don’t have space to name everyone, but you know who you are.  I’m thankful to Bryce Hadley and Andy Evans for encouraging my writing, Marie Pierre-Eilers for her help with Calculus and Culture Club, and all the teachers who helped me learn new things. 

And I’m grateful to be here. 

If I could only give my fellow high school students one piece of advice, this would be it: be grateful.  Also, wear a helmet.