Steve Zandy, 20, has lost much control of his body. Drinking and driving is the reason.
He walked to the podium at Towson High School yesterday shaking uncontrollably and bent over to one side.
"I want to ask you: Is this any kind of life you want to live?" he asked students in a barely audible, slurred voice.
Mr. Zandy and Bo Sellars, who also was seriously injured in an accident involving drunken driving, spoke to about 950 Towson students as part of Cruisin' not Boozin', a program created by the Bryn Mawr Rehab hospital in Malvern, Pa.
The program's sponsors hope that after hearing from survivors of traumatic head injuries caused by drunken driving, students will think before they drink and get behind the wheel.
In 1986, Mr. Zandy was a sports-loving 15-year-old trying his best to "fit in" with his peers. His hobby, besides playing on the high school football team, was "going out and trying to have the best time I could," he said.
One weekend when his parents were away, Mr. Zandy and his friends raided the family liquor cabinet. As they drank, they talked about how great it would be to turn 16 so that they could drive.
Trying to impress his friends, Mr. Zandy announced that he could drive and grabbed his sister's car keys. He drove around the neighborhood. It was 2 a.m., and he was drunk.
Half a mile from his West Chester, Pa., home, he hit a tree. After two months in a coma, he had to relearn how to walk, talk and even swallow.
After eight months at the hospital and rehabilitation that continues to this day, Mr. Zandy can speak, although his voice is slow and slurred.
"Keep this in mind," he said to the teens. "Your life is yours. Take care of it. Bo and I didn't."
Mr. Sellars, 32, was a junior at Temple University 11 years ago when he and two friends spent a winter evening drinking at a country-rock concert. They left the concert at 3 a.m., giving little though to the consequences of driving home drunk on the icy Philadelphia roads.
The next thing Mr. Sellars remembers is waking up from a coma at the hospital three months later. A passenger in the car, he was the only one injured in the one-car accident. "I was 21 years old and in a diaper," he told the students. "I got drunk, and I got in a car with a drunk driver -- two things I did wrong."
Mr. Sellars, who described himself as a one-time "star athlete", said he can no longer run, still needs constant work on his motor skills and has trouble seeing. His speech also is impaired. He never returned to college but now has a business detailing automobiles. "I learned the hard way," he said.
Before the program, some in the high school audience joked about going out to get drunk. But they were silent once the men, especially the youthful-looking Mr. Zandy, spoke.
Asked whether the stories the men told would have a lasting impact on the young audience, some students said it would.
"The assembly is going to stay on a lot of people's minds," said sophomore Leslie Harris, 15. "It's going to shake them up a lot."
The difference was seeing real victims, said Gregory Conley, 18. "At most other assemblies, they just preach about drinking," he said. "We saw what it does firsthand to people like us."
The program, sponsored by the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse and the Baltimore Life Underwriters Association, will be presented in 10 more Baltimore County schools.