Sarah Panzau: Living Proof

Sarah Panzau: Living Proof On Friday, September 12, a twenty-six year old woman named Sarah Panzau came to my school to give us a DUI presentation. She was going to show us what could happen if you chose to drink and drive. Sarah is living proof of what could happen. Sarah has suffered a great deal of pain and she is brave enough to travel around the United States to share her story with schools to show them what can really happen. Sarah was granted a miracle to live after the crash…

We turned our attention to a screen where pictures of her playing volleyball in high school played with sweet music in the background. The entire gym was dead silent has the slide show continued. The slide show switched pictures. The picture now was with Sarah holding a glass of alcohol was showed with sinister music playing in the background. Quickly a picture of a car crash flashed a couple of times before fully appearing. Let me tell you this, that picture was not for the faint-hearted.

“This was never supposed to happen to a girl like me,” Sarah started out.

“I thought I was invincible. I had everything. I was a star athlete. I was pretty. Nothing could stop me.”.

Sarah was 19 at the time and working at a bar.

“I was only 19 when I got my first job. It was at a bar. I looked old enough to be twenty-one so I was never questioned for an ID,” Sarah told us.

“That day I learned who my true friends were. I learned who cared about me. You know those people? The people you think will stop you from ruining your life. The people you trust. We all have someone, don’t we?” Sarah asked us. There were soft yes’s and no’s from the audience of my school.

“Before the crash I had a boyfriend. Girl’s you know how that goes, right? You find that boy you never want to leave? Well he was that one. I turned down 26 volleyball scholarships for him. Yes I said twenty-six. So believe me when I say this wasn’t supposed to happen to a girl like me.”

Sarah came to our school in shorts and a tank top, after the presentation she told me she did this to show everyone what her choice had done to her. Sarah believes that because she was close to their age when she crashed and she is still close to their age now that she’ll make a bigger impact on them.

Her choice has left her not only without a left arm but with scars from about 36 surgeries she has had to repair her body so she can live a normal life.

“I know you. I’ve been in your place. I sat in an auditorium listening to drunk driving presentations. I want you to listen. I want you to learn. I want to help you learn to not take anything for granted because in a second… This could happen to you,” Sarah said stetching her amputated left arm, her voice slightly cracking from the tears.

“Now if you feel you don’t need anyone like I once did then just take a good look at me and understand where that thought took me. It’s not too pretty, is it?” Sarah went on. By this point Sarah had moved from the lower part of the bleachers to the upper part giving everyone a good look at her.

One night after work she was drinking with some friends at the bar she worked at not wanting to call her mom, afraid of the consequences, Sarah decided to drive home drunk. That night changed her life forever…

Sarah was an outstanding high school and college student but hating the school work after volleyball season she dropped out.

At 4:30A.M on August 23, 2003 in St. Louis, Illinois twenty-one year old Sarah Elizabeth Panzau was in a fatal one-car crash. Sarah’s injuries were critical and severe. Sarah was later found to have a alcohol level of four times the legal amount.

Sarah’s injuries included degloving injury to the back of her head, multiple face fractures, multiple fractures in her mandible, open fracture of her mandible, traumatic left arm amputation midway, fracture left clavicle, fracture left scapula, bilateral pneumo thorax, bilateral hemo thorax, chest crushing injuries, degloving injury to the entire left side of her shoulder and neck exposing her carotid artery, head trauma, disarticulation of left knee with severe ligament damage, third degree liver laceration.

Upon seeing the crash an anonymous caller notified the Illinois State Police. Sarah had rolled her car four times, it had landed on the roof and she was trapped inside the car unconscious. When paramedics arrived at the scene of the crash Sarah had no pulse or blood pressure. Sarah was air-evacuated to St. Louis University Medical Center. When she arrived the trauma team stabilized her condition with six units of blood, sent her to a cat scan then sent her to surgery. She was in surgery from 8:30AM until 2:30PM.

Sarah’s left arm was amputated that was partially ripped off from the crash. At this point Sarah was given a zero percent chance of living. She was put into critical condition…

Sarah held up the America team volleyball jersey and said nothing more than, “I am living proof that you can have anything you want."

Before Sarah even began speaking, before the slide show even began Sarah had already made an impact on the students by her looks.

“Seeing her injuries in person has made a bigger impact on me than any of the other drunk driving presentations we have ever had,” a sophomore, I can’t mention his name sorry, said at lunch that day.

Sarah has left an impact on my school. She’s left a memory that won’t be soon forgotten from us. The assembly was a total of an hour long and the entire time Sarah kept our attention. Not only with her words and looks but with her jokes she threw in from time to time.

I can say that Sarah gave one of the best drunk driving presentations I’ve ever seen/heard.

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