Crash Survivor to Speak at Fishers, Hamilton Southeastern High Schools
As a two-time member of the National Junior College Athletic Association women’s volleyball All-American team, Sarah Panzau knew what it was like to be on top of her game – and on top of the world. But not long after, she nearly lost it all.
Somewhere between life as a competitively driven high school athlete and the early years of college, she began heading down a destructive path. She found herself hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting more out of drugs and dangerous levels of alcohol than hitting the books and spiking a ball.
On Tuesday, March 19th at 10:00am and again at 7:00 pm at Fishers High School and Wednesday, March 20th at 10:30 am at Hamilton South Eastern High School Sarah Panzau will deliver her Living Proof presentation to students, which details the pattern of poor choices that finally caught up with her.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 23, 2003, Panzau’s car – and her life – spun out of control. With a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit, the 21 year-old decided to drive home drunk, missed a highway exit and rolled her car four times. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was ejected through the rear window of her car, her left arm was torn from her body and she was thrown onto the roadway.
The next thing Panzau remembers, she was in the hospital being told that she had lost her arm. She remained hospitalized for several months and endured more than 30 surgeries.
Panzau recognizes it was a series of poor choices that led up to that tragic night and hopes others will learn from her mistakes. She started speaking to students because, until the crash, she was in their shoes: invincible and with the world ahead of her.
“Not only did my poor decisions to hang with the wrong crowd, get involved with drugs and drive drunk forever change my life, it also changed the lives of everyone around me,” Panzau explains. “Every time I speak to students, I want them to understand the importance of making good decisions and how choices have consequence – sometimes for a lifetime.”
Through the Living Proof presentation, Panzau encourages students to look out for each other and reminds them to seek help, if needed. She also touches on the difficulties she has encountered as a result of her disabling injury, including a lack of social acceptance. She relates that before the crash, she was the pretty, popular girl with whom everyone wanted to be friends. Now that she is technically considered disabled, people treat her differently. Panzau encourages students not to let physical disabilities bias their thinking and to show tolerance and acceptance of others.
Living Proof is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch Terrance Smith Distributing as part of the company’s commitment to help prevent underage drinking and drunk driving.
“Sarah provides a powerful message that truly resonates with students,” says Terrance Smith Jr of Terrance Smith Distributing. “Not only does she tell them about the importance of making good decisions, not to drink when underage and never drive drunk, she also teaches about value of family and the important role these relationships play in the lives of young adults.”
Join Terrance Smith Distributing in supporting Living Proof by attending Sarah Panzau’s presentation Tuesday, March 19th at 10:00am and again at 7:00pm at Fishers High School and Wednesday, March 20th at 10:30am at Hamilton South Eastern High School.