Sanford, N.C. — The snow this past Christmas lured many North Carolinians out for sledding. Some, like 15-year-old Joe Godfrey, of Sanford, buzzed around on all-terrain vehicles.
Godfrey rode on the back of an ATV driven by his father, John.
“That was like the first snow. They were having a good time,” Godfrey’s mother, Tonia, said.
The fun ended when Joe Godfrey sensed the ATV was tipping.
“He bails before it tips. So, when he bails, his side comes across and hits a tree,” Tonia Godfrey said.
The teen was wearing a helmet, but it was his abdomen that took the hit.
“He basically hit the hospital door here and we took him right up to the operating room because we knew his injuries were severe enough,” UNC pediatric surgeon Dr. Patty Lange said.
Lange said Godfrey suffered lacerations to his liver, kidneys and spleen.
“He stayed up here in Chapel Hill for 28 days, and 20 of that was spent in ICU,” Tonia Godfrey said. “It was scary.”
Godfrey's father was not hurt.
Godfrey still needs a drain catheter for the bile duct from his liver, and he might have lost the use of one kidney.
It's an experience that might have scared some families away from ATVs, but not the Godfreys.
“It was just a freak accident. It could have happened to anybody,” Tonia Godfrey said.
The teen has even been back on the bike.
“They go right back to them, and I don't think the public always knows how dangerous they can be,” Lange said.
The teen said he plans to be more careful.
Between 2007 and 2009, there were 64 reported deaths in North Carolina linked to ATVs. Many of them involved children under the age of 16.