Jessi Meyer, rehabilitation
counselor for The Rehabilitation
Institute of St. Louis and Heather
Heil, injury prevention coordinator
for Barnes-Jewish trauma services,
present the ThinkFirst program to
a local high school.
Studies show that the young rather than the old tend to engage
more frequently in risk-taking behavior. With age, comes a keener
sense of one’s mortality. Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the national
ThinkFirst program recognize this and address it with a program
geared specifically to teenagers. As a Level 1 Trauma Center, with
recognition by the American College of Surgeons, Barnes-Jewish
is dedicated to engaging in programs like ThinkFirst to create
awareness of injury prevention in our community.
ThinkFirst for Teens is a dramatic program that takes a more serious
look at risk-taking activities through the eyes of young people who
have suffered brain or spinal cord injuries. Jessi Meyer is one of these
young people who suffered a life-changing accident.
In 2005, Meyer and her grandmother were standing on a hill next
to their van when she noticed the emergency brake on. She leaned
in to disengage the brake, not knowing the van was in reverse.
When the van began rolling down the hill, the door slammed into
Meyer folding her in half.
Meyer spent a week at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, nine weeks as an
inpatient at The Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, followed by
five months as an outpatient working on her recovery and mobility.
Meyer was still in college when the accident happened. Afterward,
she changed her career path to become a rehabilitation counselor.
“Obviously, this was a huge life change for me and I wanted to be
able to help others adjust who might be in similar situations,” says
Meyer. Shortly before Meyer graduated, she was contacted by The
Rehabilitation Institute, which was looking for a full-time counselor.
In addition to her position as a rehabilitation counselor, Meyer is a
Voice for Injury Prevention (VIP) speaker for the ThinkFirst program.
She and other VIP speakers join Heather Heil, director of ThinkFirst’s
St. Louis branch and the injury prevention coordinator for Barnes-
Jewish trauma services, to educate teenagers about the anatomy of
the brain, spinal cord and central nervous system. The VIP speakers
share their personal stories, discussing how they were injured, how
they could have prevented the injury and how they deal with life after
paralysis or brain injury.
“The goal is to create a forum for open and frank dialogue about this
topic before an accident or injury happens,” says Heil. “If we can get
teens to be more thoughtful about their actions, hopefully some of
these injuries will be prevented.”