Alex Wigg wants to be a lot of things when he grows up. If you ask him, though, he’ll just say he wants to be “successful.”
But if not for the helmet the 11-year-old Summerlin boy was wearing when he was struck by a car on the morning of April 27, he might never have had a chance to pursue his dreams.
“This helmet, we believe it saved my son’s life,” his mother, Jena Antonchuk, said as she turned it over in her hands. The Bell helmet shows only few scuffs after the crash, barely marring its black-and-white punk rock motif. The foam lining inside has come loose from the outer shell, but it’s mostly intact.
Alex was struck in a crosswalk as he rode his bike to his school, Givens Elementary. The school called his father first.
“I had hoped it was minor, something small,” his father, Jason Wigg, said Saturday evening. “But when I got there and saw the crowd, I knew it wasn’t.”
Alex was in critical condition for at least three days following the crash.
“That first 72 hours, those were the scariest 72 hours of my life,” Antonchuk said.
Alex suffered brain trauma from the crash and developed cerebral salt wasting syndrome, which affects the levels of sodium in his body.
When his condition was at its worst, his parents made a bed in the back of their minivan and slept in the University Medical Center parking lot.
Alex is a shy straight-A student who likes video games, anime and books. He’s a star swimmer on the Las Vegas Swim Club team, even qualifying for the Junior Olympics last year. Right now he’s reading Stephen King’s “It” and loving it.
He doesn’t remember much about the crash, but his parents say he’s too polite to admit it most of the time.
“The worst thing was not knowing what was going to be on the other side,” Antonchuk said.
Alex’s parents were terrified they wouldn’t recognize the boy who woke up in a hospital bed.
But Alex is still the same, and his parents said he’s been recovering well since he came home Thursday.
He’s still reading and watching anime, and he’s itching to play video games again as soon as his doctor gives him the go-ahead. He can’t perform any of the card tricks he used to know, but he still remembers how to play the guitar.
His parents know things could have ended up much worse.
“The most important thing was that he was wearing a helmet,” Antonchuk said. “Any parent that thinks it couldn’t happen to them is wrong.”
Alex’s parents are the first to admit they’re obsessed with safety. The first time Alex rode his bike to school, his father followed him in his car with the hazard lights on. The parents always ensure that Alex and his younger sister wear their bike helmets.
Only 21 states have laws that require children wear bike helmets, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and Nevada isn’t one of them.
Antonchuk and Wigg hope their community will help them change that. After the crash, they connected with Brandi Nielsen and Brian Resendes, two parents who were dropping their kids off at school when they saw the car crash into Alex.
“Those parental instincts just kicked in,” Resendes said. He and Nielsen rushed to Alex’s side and tried to comfort him until medical personnel could arrive. They found his name on the agenda inside his backpack.
After the crash, they got to work, creating a GoFundMe page to help cover his medical expenses and rally the community. It was shared 2,000 times in the first 12 hours it was up, Nielsen is working on getting the city to place a three-way stop, or at least more visible signage, near the street where Alex was struck.
“A lot of people don’t think Las Vegas is capable of that kind of community support,” Wigg said. “I’ve learned it’s not enough to say something or believe something. You have to act, and the community has done so much for us.”
Alex said he was eager to return to school later this week and finish the fifth grade.
His parents said they still have his bike, but he won’t be riding it to school for the foreseeable future.
Contact Max Michor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0381. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.