An Iowan who was paralyzed in a traffic accident now travels the state speaking to high school and middle school students in hopes keeping the kids from the same fate. Chad Thomas is now the co-ordinator of a group called “TIPS” — or Traumatic Injuries Prevention Strategies. He says their focus areas are using seatbelts, utilizing helmets, thinking before you drive, chemical free driving, with an overall message of “Think First.”
The group is supported by Iowa Health Systems and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau. Thomas says his story is one of a life-long injury that could’ve been prevented. Thomas is from northwest Iowa and when he was 18 he had and accident and rolled his car. Thomas says he was not wearing a seatbelt and that led to a spinal cord injury in which he can no longer use or feel his lower extremities.
Thomas went to rehabilitation in Colorado and returned to Iowa to go to the University of Northern Iowa. He got involved with the “TIPS” group and said telling his story wasn’t difficult. Thomas says for him it wasn’t a problem, but for some of the speakers it is. Thomas says he realized he screwed up and has to move forward.
Thomas says when he goes to give a talk, the kids view him as a person in a wheelchair — but he then explains that he used to do everything they did. He says he tries to paint the picture that he was like every other kid growing up, but then “because of my bad choice of not buckling my seatbelt, my life changed.” Thomas says they also have some brain-injured speakers who talk about getting into an accident while not wearing a seatbelt and how it changed their lives forever.
Thomas says the kids seem to respond to see and hearing a real person’s story. Thomas says it’s a different twist on injury prevention as the kids are always hearing how they should wear their seatbelts and not drink and drive. He says his presence and story shows the kids what can really happen if they don’t think before they act.
The group is based in Waterloo and Thomas says they do some 200 presentations to some 30-thousand students each year. He says you can reach them by calling 319-226-2155, or you can surf to:www.ihs.org/tips.