Home / Spring 2012 / 2012-04-05 / Panzau uses tragedy to educate

Panzau uses tragedy to educate

  Have you ever wondered what your life would be like after that one drink that gets you “over the edge?” Well Sarah Panzau, a two-time nationally recognized All-American, Olympic volleyball player, soon found out on Aug. 23, 2003.

                Sarah Panzau shared her story about her near fatal car collision in the P.E. Complex on April 4 at 7 p.m.

After turning down 20 offers to play volleyball at other colleges, Panzau chose to do her own thing at a junior college because she had “other plans” for herself.

She was a rebel, and after her sophomore year in college she dropped out. She became a bartender at the age of 19 years old.  

                The night of Aug. 23, Panzau stumbled out of the bar with her friends and started to drive home. Her drive ended up with her head hanging out of the window and scraping up against a guard rail at 60 mph.

Panzau’s left arm was ripped off her body, the back of her scalp and neck were torn and her ribs were separated from her spinal cord. Panzau had a 0 percent survival rate.

She had no pulse or blood pressure and the coroner was called to the scene of her crash.  She was labeled as a clinical save, which means she was pronounced dead and brought back to life.                                                                                                                                                                      

After the accident, the people she called her friends never tried to contact her. These were the same people who watched her stumble out of the bar and drive home, even though she could barely stand on her own two feet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

“How many of those true friends were at my bedside?” Panzau said.

The people she thought were her family, and even some people who were in the accident with her, were nowhere to be found. “Not one of them showed up to the hospital,” Panzau said.

The only one who came to help her was her mother.

She laid flat in the hospital bed for 2 months to heal and lost 69.5 lbs. in a little over a month because her mouth was wired shut for 7 weeks. 

A year after the accident, Panzau went to get her license again. She was not charged with a DUI, or given any fines, and her license was still valid all because no one expected her to live. However, she still had to retake her test because she was now branded as disabled. 

Panzau has had 36 surgeries in the past 8 years to have a chance to live her life in a less painful manner.

“Do you really want to go out and spend the rest of your life hoping that nothing ever happens to you?” Panzau said.

Ryan Smith, junior criminal justice major, said he would think about 85 percent of VSU students drinks and drives, and that is why Panzau’s presentation was taken very seriously by VSU’s students.

 “I think athletes will start to see it is not about how much you can consume, but what can happen after you do drink because it can happen to just about anybody,” Nathaniel Washington,  junior psychology major, said.                                                                                                                                                                                              

After wrapping up her seminar with a quote from one of her favorite songs, PINK’s “Perfect,” Panzau received a standing ovation.

“Everybody needs to hear this,” Ryan Smith, junior criminal justice major, said. “I think it should be a part of the freshman seminar or freshman orientation. If I was a freshman, I would be a lot smarter about when I would drink. I would plan to have someone drive me back home, like a designated driver.”

Panzau, now 30-years-old and a public speaker, is spreading the word about how dangerous drinking and driving can really be. She is closer with her mom and has gotten engaged on Feb. 14, 2012.

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