Each year about 600 people in Iowa will become paralyzed from a spinal cord injury; another 5,000 will suffer traumatic brain injuries. Fifthy percent of these injuries will happen to young people 15-24. Cars, motorcycles and diving injuries are the major cause.
The Storm Lake Middle School students took part in a presentation by TIPS/ Think First injury prevention program recently, which included many statistics and a factual talk by a young person who received a brain injury.
TIPS - Traumatic Injuries Prevention Strategies - Think First is a national organization which was founded by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. The goal is to reach students and remind them to Think First! before doing any activity.
"Every decision you make, every second, can change your life," the students were told.
"In life, you have choices. If you make the wrong choice, you pay the consequences," said speaker Lisa O'Neil. "Use your mind to protect your life, wear the gear and always buckle up. And please, don't use drugs or alcohol."
The students were told to "slow down and think." It was pointed out the leading cause of injuries is vehicle crashes followed by violence, falls and sports.
Tony Ellis, a 29-year-old Gowrie High School graduate, suffered a brain injury when he was involved in a car accident where he was not using his seat belt. His life was changed and will never be the same.
Prior to the accident, he was very musical, an honor student and had a lot of friends. At the time, he was a 19-year-old college student studying pre-med.
"It was in the summer and I was headed to work. I was in a hurry." When he crashed, he flew out of the vehicle because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt.
He spent two months in a coma and underwent brain surgery and a great deal of therapy to learn to walk, talk and do other simple things again.
He now lives in a group home with others and has been taught a job. He has achieved the long goal of learning to drive again but, he stressed, "I always use my seat belt."
He was asked by the student why he wasn't wearing his seat belt the day of the accident. "It was my way of rebelling against my parents. That's not a good thing."
He enjoys playing the computer and his Play Station and spending time with family and friends.
"My life is way different now. We're not here to scare you but we want you to use what protective gear is available. And always Think First!"