Woman Hurt By Own Drunk Driving Shares Story With Tulsa Students

Thursday, October 14th 2010, 4:15 pm
By: News On 6

By Lacie Lowry, News On 6 

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Edison Middle and High School students got a sobering message Thursday from a woman who almost lost her life to her own drunk driving. She's sharing her story to young students in hopes they won't follow the life-changing path she chose.

"On August 23, 2003, I was a victim of my own drunk driving crash," said motivational speaker Sarah Panzau.

The day that changed her life is now her platform to change young lives.

"If they make that first poor choice to drink underage, I hope they don't make that second poor choice to get behind the wheel," she said.

Panzau was drunk, her blood-alcohol level four times the legal limit, when she decided to get behind the wheel that day. She went from a star athlete and stellar volleyball player, to a mangled mess on an Illinois highway.

The road scalped her; her left arm was torn off, and Panzau should have died.

"I fractured every vertebra in my back except five; I separated my ribcage from my spinal column," she said. "This whole lower bottom part of my jaw was broke from my face, smashed in seven different places across."

Panzau's story and physical reminders make for a chilling presentation at schools across the nation to students like these from Edison.

"To see an athlete - because I'm an athlete myself - and to imagine something so serious like the future, and the future you could have that you don't even know you have, can be gone so fast like that," said Edison senior Greg Millham.

"It's serious; there are consequences, and kids think that they are invincible and they're not. We are not invincible," said Emily Edwards, a senior at Edison.

More than 30 surgeries and seven years later, Panzau travels nine months out of the year, hoping to shake up future bad decisions, one student at a time.

"After everything that I've gone through and after all the pain I feel on a daily basis, I know that it didn't just happen for no reason at all," she said.

Sarah Panzau's life-saving message has three parts: every decision has a consequence, choose your friends carefully and don't judge others.

Panzau says she endures stares, comments and whispers every day since she crashed.