You may want to think twice before buying a zip line this Christmas - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/25/09

You may want to think twice before buying a zip line this Christmas

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – What do your kids want for Christmas?  The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year, but we have some advice from one area family with a popular toy in their garage that they say they will never use. That's because their daughter tried it first at a friend's house and ended up in the hospital with a broken back.

"Dr. Sixtus told us when we came into the ER that other people with less severe injuries have been paralyzed," said Connie Byrd, Mary's mother.

You might have seen Jay Leno monkeying around on a zip line right before his television show.  His bump on the head might be funny, but what happened to Mary Byrd wasn't.

Mary broke her back, specifically T-10, a vertebrae in the lower part of the mid-back. "She's gonna need some therapy, but six weeks from now. We'll see how she's healing," said Atabong Sixtus, P.A., with the Covenant Neurosurgery Association.

Mary was at a friend's house and it was her first ride on the zip line. "I can't remember hitting the ground or falling at all. How far did you fall? 12 feet. That's a long way.  It is a long way!" said Mary Byrd, who was injured on a zip line.

It was supposed to be the kind of fun we see in movies like Home Alone - from the top of a tree house to a pole across the yard. Mary had barely grabbed onto the zip line, when she fell.  She was rushed to Covenant Hospital in Lubbock where she ended up in surgery with two rods forever planted in her back.

It's not known who made the zip line Mary was trying to ride, but the Byrds bought one like it, but hadn't put it up yet. There are many pieces and it looks like just putting it together might be a challenge in itself.

There are dozens of zip line kits on the internet, some described as "Active Toys for Active Kids." Most suggest parental supervision, with the warning, "choking hazard and small parts." 

You can order more professional looking zip lines with a harness, but there can still be accidents even at church camps. The most recent camp tragedy came to the Weimer family. Their son, 12-year-old Zachary, was killed last year in a zip line accident at his church camp in Tennessee.

Still, there are a lot of BACKYARD zip lines, many are on Youtube, and you can tell when you order them online that most of the kits do not come with a harness. In this case, 90 feet of cable came with a lot of hardware and the slogan, "hang on, take a big breath, and fly."

"Definitely there are better gifts than a zip line," said Mary Byrd, who is in a brace now. "You just have to take it easy. This is a nice shell for you to wear, probably for the next five months," said Dr. Sixtus.

"We still have a very long road in front of us. She is gonna to recover, but it could have been a smidgen of a chance and she wouldn't have," said Connie Byrd.

"She's very lucky. A lot of people I've seen with a fracture like this have been paralyzed," said Dr. Sixtus.

As for the zip line that the Byrd's purchased for their children, "We will definitely not be having a zip line at our house," said Connie Byrd.

Mary is at home now, wearing her brace, of course.  She's in pretty good spirits and she and her mom just want others to know how dangerous this can be, before they set up a zip line in their back yard.

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