As a two-time member of the National Junior College Athletic Association women’s volleyball All-America 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 Wednesday February 13, 6:00 PM at ASU CJ Davidson Conference Center,  Panzau will deliver her Living Proof presentation, 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 consequences – 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 collaboration between ASU, the Concho Valley CARES Coalition, ASU Health Services, ASU Center for Student Involvement, San Angelo Police Department, Texas Department of Transportation and the Corporate Social Responsibility office of A-B Distributing, as well as others.

“Sarah provides a powerful message that truly resonates with students,” says Retha Fortenberry, CSR Director for A-B 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 the value of family and the important role these relationships play in the lives of young adults.” “We hope we fill the CJ Davidson Center with parents attending this presentation with their kids.”

Jennifer Pittman, the Drug Free Communities Coordinator for the Concho Valley CARES Coalition states, “we are pleased to work with our entire community to encourage our youth and young adults to make a safe choice not to engage in underage drinking, excessive college drinking and drunk driving."

For more details, call 942-2171.