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ThinkFirst Offers Glimpse of Reality After Accidents

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
programs
, contact
Heather Heil at 314-362-9175
or hnr4357@bjc.org. 

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