Two very similar stories…two young men injured while riding an all-terrain vehicle. Two families told their sons may not survive. Two journeys that led them to one place. Two very similar stories, indeed.
Fifteen-year-old Wesley Troxtell knows Aaron Bullock’s story well. In fact, it is the reason Wesley’s family chose The Children’s Center for their son’s recovery.
March 17, 2012 was a beautiful, sunny day in the small town of St. Joe, Texas. Wesley and his father were there to ride ATVs at an ATV park.
As the day wore on, Wesley was completing a ride when he stopped at an intersection. “I popped a wheelie on my ATV. Out of nowhere, I got t-boned by a guy.”
“While he doesn’t remember much about the accident, bits and pieces are starting to come back,” says Linda, Wesley’s mother.
“I went flying in the air,” Wesley recalls. “My four-wheeler flipped over four times.”
He was not wearing a helmet.
Wesley’s father watched as rescue workers hooked Wesley to breathing machines and lifted him into a medical helicopter. It took three hours for Wesley’s father to get in touch with his wife. It was a phone call she will never forget.
“I just sat the phone down and started screaming. I started running through the house grabbing stuff,” Linda remembers vividly. “I finally came to my senses and started getting things in order.”
Wesley spent seven days in a Texas hospital before being admitted to a nursing facility near his home town. His roommate was a 90-year-old man.
“I was devastated,” Linda says. “It was like no one was willing to help our son.”
Wesley’s family chose to bring him to The Children’s Center after seeing a story about a former patient who also was injured in an ATV accident.
“Wesley’s nurse showed us a story about Aaron Bullock,” Linda recalls. “She picked up the determination of Aaron and the staff at The Children’s Center. She felt like it would be a place where Wesley would be taken care of well.”
Aaron spent two years recovering at The Children’s Center from a bad ATV accident in April of 2005. He lost control on a sandy road. He suffered a broken leg and a traumatic brain injury forcing him into a coma.
It is April 12, 2012. Wesley is in the middle of a therapy session inside the Pediatric Medical Rehabilitation Unit (PMRU) at The Children’s Center.
A familiar face enters the PMRU’s rehabilitative gym.
“Hi, Wesley,” Aaron Bullock says as he makes his way to a chair with the help of his mother.
Aaron, now 20 years old, was invited by staff at The Children’s Center to share his story of inspiration with Wesley.
“Hey, Aaron,” Wesley responds as he readjusts the direction of his wheelchair, so he can face his visitor.
The two sit within 20 feet of each other in the middle of the gym while nurses, family and members of the media give the boys room to talk.
It does not take long for them to bond as they share the moment that brought them to The Children’s Center.
“I was close to dying,” Wesley says. The deep emotion can be heard in his quivery voice. “I was so close to dying.”
Aaron nods his head knowing all too well that feeling, but it is his sense of humor that breaks the solemn moment as he offers Wesley some advice.
“Just keep your eyes wide open during therapy, Wesley. There are some good looking nurses.”
As the room fills with laughter, Wesley, quick to respond, says, “I’ve noticed.”
The two share quick conversations about their favorite country band and if Taylor Swift is a good singer or just good looking.
Aaron shares one of his many jokes. “What happens when ducks fly upside down? They quack up.”
Conversation then returns to The Children’s Center as Aaron asks Wesley about his rehabilitation.
“It’s good. I have met a lot of new people,” Wesley responds. “I want to shake all the staff’s hands when I get better. It’s hard to do when you have a cast.”
His mother agrees. “I would like to thank all The Children’s Center staff for being so wonderful and polite to us. They have treated us like family. With the help of this facility, I believe he will walk again.”
Wesley is now home with his family…walking. He continues to gain strength every day and looks forward to the day he can climb into his old beat-up truck. As for Aaron, he continues to speak publicly about ATV safety. Just recently, he was surprised while volunteering at the state FFA convention in Oklahoma City on behalf of ATV: Ride Safe Oklahoma. Wesley’s friends, who were also attending the convention, stopped by Aaron’s booth. They showed their respect to the man who helped encourage their friend not only to walk again, but to laugh again.
It’s in the numbers…
From 1982 to 2007, there were 9,223 ATV-related fatalities in the United States.
In 2007, there were more than 150,000 emergency department-treated ATV injuries across the United States.
From 2007 to 2009, there were 35 ATV-related deaths in Oklahoma.
Wearing helmets reduces deaths by 42% and non-fatal head injuries by 64%.
Neither Aaron nor Wesley was wearing a helmet the day of their accident.
(Courtesy: The ATV Safety Institute and Oklahoma State Department of Health)
ATV: Ride Safe Oklahoma is a joint initiative led by The Children's Center, The Trauma One Center at OU Medical Center and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service 4-H Youth Development. The goal is to provide safety education and injury prevention information as related to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), also known as four-wheelers and quads.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying ATV use until age 16. ATV: Ride Safe Oklahoma recommends that everyone take a 4-H facilitated ATV Safety Program ASI RiderCourse before riding an ATV, and encourages direct supervision of young riders.
You can learn more about ATV: Ride Safe Oklahoma at www.ridesafeok.org.