It's fairly common for the young rather
than the old to engage more frequently
in risk-taking behavior. With age, comes
a keener sense of one’s mortality. The
national ThinkFirst program recognizes
this and addresses it with a program
geared specifically to teenagers.
ThinkFirst for Teens is a program that takes
a more serious look at risk-taking activities
through stories told by young people who
have suffered brain or spinal cord injuries.
Jessi Meyer is one such person.
In 2005, Meyer and her grandmother were
standing on a hill next to their van when
Meyer noticed that the emergency brake was
on. She leaned in to take the brake off, 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 in acute care at
Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH), nine weeks
as an inpatient at The Rehabilitation
Institute of St. Louis (TRISL) followed
by five months as an outpatient continuing
to work on recovery and mobility.
Meyer was in college studying to
be a physician assistant when the
accident happened. Afterwards, 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.
Jessi Meyer, rehabilitation counselor for The Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, and Heather Heil, injury prevention coordinator for Barnes-Jewish Hospital trauma services, present the ThinkFirst Teens program to a local high school.
Shortly before Meyer graduated, she was
contacted by TRISL, which was looking
for a full-time counselor.
Now working as a rehabilitation counselor,
Meyer also is a Voice for Injury Prevention
(VIP) speaker for the ThinkFirst program.
She and other VIP speakers join Heather Heil,
the injury prevention coordinator for BJH
trauma services and director of ThinkFirst’s
St. Louis branch, to educate teenagers about
the anatomy of the brain, spinal cord and
central nervous system. VIP speakers share
their personal stories, discuss how they were
injured, how they could have prevented
the injury and how they deal with life after
paralysis or brain injury.
“We want them
to know that we were fully functioning just
like them before the accident, and then
we get into specifics about relearning simple,
daily tasks like showering and using the
restroom,” says Meyer.
A question-and-answer session follows
each presentation. “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.”
Another ThinkFirst program in the works
is a Traffic Offenders Program for 16- to
25-year-olds who have multiple moving
violations. The program will bring offenders
to the hospital to be taken through the
emergency room, intensive care unit,
patient floor and TRISL so they can see how
they would be cared for if they were in an
accident. “It’s a dose of reality so they can
see what might happen if they continue
on their current path,” says Heil.
If interested in volunteering
for one of the ThinkFirst
Heather Heil at 314-362-9175