Each year an estimated 400,000 people sustain head injuries, with another 100,000 suffering from spinal cord injuries. One-third of these victims are between the ages of 15-24.
Think First is a national prevention program aimed at educating kids to recognize risk-taking behavior and how to prevent injury.
Every 25 seconds someone in the United States sustains a serious head injury. Each year, about 500,000 people are hospitalized, 100,000 die and almost 100,000 sustain lifelong handicaps as a result of head injuries. Another 10,000 people sustain spinal cord injuries each year.
One-third of these victims are between the ages of 15-24.
The Think First program is a national program focused on teaching young people to make responsible decisions about their health and safety. The program has been shared with students at middle school students across the nation; Concordia students were among the most recent to learn this information.
The Think First program focuses on facts and personal testimony of a young, injured person who challenges students to use their minds to protect the rest of their bodies. The speaker talks openly about the injury and the resulting physical, psychological and social changes that have occurred as a result of their accident. There are also videos and slides presented to further reinforce the impact a head or spinal cord injury can have on a young person's life.
Chad Thomas, a Spirit Lake native, spoke from his wheelchair to the students about the spinal chord injury he is living with each day.
A four-sport athlete in high school, he made the wrong choice a few weeks prior to heading off to college - he didn't buckle up and was involved in a car accident that ejected him. "My life was changed forever," he said, telling the students he is now a T10 paraplegic. .
"Your life becomes very complicated. I never thought this would happen to me but I'm thankful for what I still have. I'm fortunate. I can still be independent."
He told the students that he still does many of things he took for "granted" prior to the accident but has learned to do them differently with a great deal of therapy and a lot of patience. He still is able to be involved in sports activities, such as water boarding, downhill skiing, participating in RAGBRAI and playing on a basketball team.
"I don't sit around and think, 'Poor, poor Chad.'"
He stressed that he hopes the students will "think first" to prevent them from being harmed.
"You make the wrong choices, you live with the consequences," the program stressed. "Use your mind to protect your body. Wear the gear, always buckle up, don't use drugs and prevent violent situations." It was further stressed.
Chad, now 27 and newly married, was accompanied on the visit to Concordia by a co-presenter, Katie Rue.