Sioux Falls, SD
Despite all the dangers and warnings about drunk driving, it's a big problem. But one woman is hoping her experience on the wrong side of the law...will help others stay on track.
By her own acclaim, Sarah Panzau admits she used to live for only today. But after five years speaking on the road, she's forced to live far ahead.
"I've made it my life, and I really believe I'm on a mission to teach and to show and to show what's happened to me because of my poor choices," Panzau said.
In August 2003, Panzau decided to drink and drive. She ended up rolling her car four times on a Southern Illinois highway. She was clinically dead on the road and given a zero percent chance of survival. Her blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.308, nearly four times the legal limit.
But after more than 30 surgeries, Panzau is alive today. And she shares her personal story with students across the country nine months out of the year.
"They don't want to hear statistics," Panzau said. "They don't want to hear and see pie graphs and charts. To be able to put a real story in front of them and somebody that was a drunk driver...you know, I'm not a victim. I mean, I am a victim, but of my own drunk driving crash."
Panzau isn't your average motivational speaker. She doesn't use the stage at Augustana's Kresge Recital Hall, and she purposely wears clothing that shows off her injuries.
"That's why I speak in the tank top and the gym shorts because I wanted to get up and show what happened to this beautiful body, this once athletic body, and from one choice that I made," Panzau said. "I don't complain about what I've gone through. I have no right, I chose this."
Panzau's made a living, and a life, out of her story. And despite all the pain and suffering, when asked the number one question, "what would she change?", she doesn't flinch.
"I would do everything all over again if it meant who I was going to be today," Panzau said. "And if it meant it was going to help the people that I've impacted. My number one saying is God won't give you anything you can't handle. I just wish He wouldn't trust me so much."
Panzau will tour more of South Dakota throughout the week. She's scheduled to talk at Irene High School on Monday and will hold an event open to the public at South Dakota State on Tuesday.