ThinkFirst Illinois Use Your Mind. Protect Your Body. Award-Winning, Evidence-Based Injury Prevention Programs
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VIP Speakers
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ThinkFirst’s Voice for Injury Prevention (VIP) speakers are available to share their personal experiences of how their permanent injury changed their lives. They share how their personal choices, or a perpetrator’s choice, led to a permanent disability. Through compelling firsthand testimonies, audiences learn about the consequences of injuries and how injuries can happen to anyone and are preventable. These sobering, yet motivational messages urge everyone to take personal responsibility and make safe choices.

Please note that the speakers are only available to appear within their Chapter’s service area. For more information on each speaker, click on the speaker’s name.

 

“Be happy!” - Julie Papievis

View Julie's story

Date/time/location of incident: May 10, 1993, 7 p.m., at Yorktown Shopping Mall, Lombard, IL

Julie’s story>

Julie, a 29-year-old accounting executive, was driving a vehicle that was struck by a teenager who was speeding and ran a red light.

Diagnosis

Severe brain stem injury

Prognosis

At the time, was in a vegetative state; Facing the Future-currently, VIP speaker with ThinkFirst and community relations advisor for Romanucci and Blandin Law firm. Julie has written a book, “Go Back and Be Happy,” which is being made into a movie by the producers of “The Blind Side”

Website and video

www.gobackandbehappy.com

To schedule Julie as a speaker, call 630.933.1934.

"We know tragedies happen. Don't take the chance and make it happen." - Shannon Swieca

View Shannon's story

Date/time/location of incident: March 14, 2003, 8:30 pm, in Lockport, IL

Shannon’s story

Shannon was a high school junior, driving her friends and speeding. She lost control of the vehicle, hit a mailbox, a rock and landed against a tree. The front seat passenger suffered a brain injury; the two backseat friends were killed.

Diagnosis

Spinal Cord injury, fractures of the Cervical vertebrae 4 and 5 and Lumbar 2, mild traumatic brain injury, right-side mobile deficits.

Prognosis

Right-side hemiplegic: Facing the Future: Spent three months in juvenile detention. Has learned much from her experience about responsibility and the importance of life. Just graduated with Bachelors degree, plans further study to become an Occupational Therapist.

To schedule Shannon as a speaker, call 630.933.1934.

“At a young age, we’re expected to make a lot of choices, and sometimes, bad choices lead to life changing consequences." - Patrick Severin

View Patrick's story

Date/time/location of injury: December 30, 1991, 3 a.m., on west side of Chicago

Patrick’s story

Patrick was 21 years old and an active gang member. He was shot during a drug deal that went bad.

Diagnosis

Spinal Cord Injury , paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Prognosis

Paralyzed from the shoulders down; Facing the Future – Patrick speaks with ThinkFirst and plans a career in video editing

To schedule Patrick as a speaker, call 630.933.1934.

“Please remember your decisions have consequences not only for you but people close to you.” - Dale Spencer

View Dale's story

Date/time/location of incident: December 2, 1988, 1 a.m., at Northern Illinois University

Dale’s story

Dale was a college junior, headed to a party late at night. He was walking along a train trestle in the dark when he fell 40 feet.

Diagnosis

Spinal Cord Injury, Fractured Thoracic 12 vertebra, paraplegia

Prognosis

Paraplegia: Facing the Future: In addition to being a public speaker, Dale is Senior Mortgage Consultant at 1st Advantage Mortage, on Board of Directors at ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation and Board of Education member at School District U-46

Website: www.dalespencer.com

To schedule Dale as a speaker, call 630.933.1934.

 

Omar Trevino

View Omar's story

Date/time/location of incident: May 6th, 2007 St. Charles, IL

Omar’s story>

Omar was a 35 yr old father of 5 playing softball at his church league. While playing shortstop a hard hit grounder took a bad-hop and struck his right-temporal, suffering a brain injury.

Diagnosis

Traumatic Brain Injury

Prognosis

Brain damage, chronic head pain, neuro fatigue, post-traumatic narcolepsy/hypersomnia.

Facing the Future

Raising his resilient 5 children. Self-employed Web Designer & Webmaster. Omar speaks with ThinkFirst and plans on building an online community site to encourage new/current survivors who are living with a brain injury.

 

To schedule Omar as a speaker, call 630.933.1934.

“Life can be like a roller coaster ride. Some days you can be a little down in the dumps BUT you have to keep riding that roller coaster of life because it WILL go up. Better days will always follow the bad ones.” - Crystal Fuehne

View Crystal's story

Date/time/location of incident: May 24, 2009 at midnight in Keyesport, IL

Crystal’s Story

Crystal was a 21 year old college student at SIUC at the time of the incident. She was the designated driver of a Cadillac Escalade when they were hit head-on by a drunk driver. Three of Crystal’s friends were killed in the crash.

Diagnosis

Traumatic Brain Injury - Doctors said if she had not been transported in by helicopter, she would not have made it.

Prognosis

Excellent - Doctors said if she had not been transported in by helicopter, she would not have made it.

Websites

Crystal’s website http://crystalsjourney.shutterfly.com

Videos

Crystal’s video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8kMUiDXric

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoEIJgiYjws

Articles about Crystal

http://archives.dailyegyptian.com/siu524/0002/11/30/accident-survivor-making-strides.html

http://dawgtracker.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/saluki-student-trainer-educates-students-on-dangers-of-drunk-driving/

To schedule Crystal as a speaker, call 618.529.3060.

“I was living a dream life and now I am stuck in reality.” - Angela Moehring

View Angela's story

Date/Time/Location of Incident: June 12, 1999, 9 p.m. on a secondary road east of Vienna, Illinois

Angela's Story

Angela was a 20-year-old college student who aspired to be a police officer. She was at a social gathering with friends and got into a car with someone who had been drinking. The driver of the car was driving too fast and missed a curve. Angela was an unrestrained, front seat passenger and was ejected during the crash.

Diagnosis

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), broken ribs & jaw, liver laceration, and multiple facial fractures; she was not expected to make it through the night.

Prognosis

Good. Facing the Future – Angela lives on her own, drives and works as a Life support trainee at NeuroRestorative. She took the test for Carbondale Police department.

To schedule Angela as a speaker, call 618.529.3060.

“Let me be your example. Please learn from my mistakes.” - Keith Everett

View Keith's story

Date/Time/Location of Incident: July 17, 1996, late night, in Joliet, Illinois

Keith’s story

Keith was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana while driving. He crashed his car into a ditch.

Diagnosis

Traumatic Brain Injury and multiple fractures

Prognosis

Permanent brain damage, memory loss, chronic pain

To schedule Keith as a speaker, call 815.741.7114.

Tony Hoffman

"If you have to think twice about something, it's probably a bad idea."

"You only have one life to live and it can be taken away in one second."

"Be high on life - it has so much to offer."

View Tony's story

Date/Time/Location of Incident: November 10, 2013, Raab Road in Normal, Illinois

Tony's story

Tony was a 19 year old junior college student at Heartland Community College at the time of the incident. Tony had been at a party, smoking marijuana and drinking, when he got into a car with two friends. The driver was impaired, going too fast, missed a turn. The car went airborne. All three young men, not wearing seat belts, were ejected from the vehicle. The front seat passenger was killed and Tony was in a ditch and declared brain dead at the scene.

Diagnosis

Traumatic Brain Injury – Lost use of right arm

Prognosis

Unknown, still doing therapy on right arm and speech therapy at Illinois State University. Needs assistance for showering because balance is still a problem. Facing Future – hoping to recover use of right arm learning to drive, hopes to be a motivational speaker. The driver is currently serving 8 years in prison.

To schedule Tony as a speaker, call 217.545.9112.

 

Date/Time/Location of Incident: November 10, 2013, Raab Road in Normal, Illinois

Tony’s story

Tony was a 19 year old junior college student at Heartland Community College at the time of the incident. Tony had been at a party, smoking marijuana and drinking, when he got into a car with two friends. The driver was impaired, going too fast, missed a turn. The car went airborne. All three young men, not wearing seat belts, were ejected from the vehicle. The front seat passenger was killed and Tony was in a ditch and declared brain dead at the scene.

Diagnosis

Traumatic Brain Injury – Lost use of right arm

Prognosis

Unknown, still doing therapy on right arm and speech therapy at Illinois State University. Needs assistance for showering because balance is still a problem. Facing Future – hoping to recover use of right arm learning to drive, hopes to be a motivational speaker. The driver is currently serving 8 years in prison.

To schedule Tony as a speaker, call 217.545.9112.

Travis Guthman

"Your choices have consequences that affect you and those around you. I made a choice to text and drive and ended up in a terrible auto accident.  I live with the consequences of that choice every single day.....and so does my family. I share my story with everyone that I can; especially our youth.  To help them make better choices - and plead with them to put down the phone while driving."

Travis, owner of

The Pizza Peel, Inc.
340 5th Street
Lacon, IL 61540
www.zapeel.com

 

"I was on my way to a good life and then made some very bad choices. Not being able to walk is the easy part of spinal cord injury. Nearly all bodily functions and every part of life is affected. I share my story with kids to encourage them to make better choices than I did, and to help stop the senseless violence that is destroying too many lives." - Wardell Kyles

View Wardell's story

Date/location of incident: November 16, 1998 in Southside Chicago

Wardell’s story

While in college working toward a degree in business management, the lure of gangs and street life still held Wardell captive until a gun shot wound brought it to a sudden stop.

Diagnosis

Spinal cord injury at the Thoracic 4 level.

Prognosis

Complete and permanent paralysis from mid-chest down.

To schedule Wardell as a speaker, call 708.352.6223

"As a husband and father of two young sons, the injury had a devastating impact on all the family." - Michael Carter

View Michael's story

Date/time/location of incident: August 30, 1990 at 7:15 a.m. in Oakbrook Terrace

Michael’s story

Motor vehicle crash; Michael was hit by a drunk driver.

Diagnosis

Quadriplegia at the C 5 Level

Prognosis

Permanently paralyzed; Facing the Future – Mike wants to continue educating young people on simple ways to prevent injury.

To schedule Michael as a speaker, call 708.352.6223

"I didn’t have a choice about what happened to me but you probably do. Make good choices. Think First!" - Lee Krizka

View Lee's story

Time/location of incident: May 1985 at home in Chicago

Lee’s story

A happy, 14-year-old only child, Lee had a condition with no signs of existence until she was suddenly paralyzed. The resulting impact of the condition is the same as if it has occurred traumatically.

Diagnosis

Arterial Venal Malformation or Spinal Cord Stroke, which is similar to a spinal cord stroke. No designated level of injury.

Prognosis

Permanent Paralysis; Facing Forward – Lee currently uses a service dog for assistance. Merlot, her service dog, is a vital part of her life. She hopes to be able to branch out further and educate more people on the advantage of these extraordinary animals

To schedule Lee as a speaker, call 708.352.6223.


Jeff Conant

View Jeff's story


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