Brendan O'Shaughnessy | August 15, 2019
Marcus Engel was a freshman in college in 1993 when a drunk driver blindsided the car he was riding in, throwing him out the window, careening across the pavement on his face. All his facial bones were broken, all his teeth knocked out.
His life hung by a thread. The paramedics who found him on the street in St. Louis had to perform a last-resort cricothyrotomy, cutting a hole in his throat to provide an airway passage. His face was so mangled he couldn’t breathe, and he wouldn’t have made it to the hospital three miles away.
Engel vividly recalls lying on the street in agony, and also the terror and confusion he felt at the hospital. But mostly he remembers Jennifer, a young patient tech who comforted him in his time of need.
“Any time I was conscious, I came back into this world of darkness and pain that was unimaginable,” Engel said. “Jennifer was there every time, and she held my hand the entire night that I was in the hospital. The only thing I remember her saying, over and over, was ‘I’m here. I’m here, Marcus. I’m here.’
“Those are the two most compassionate words any human being can say to another. Just being present during another human being’s suffering — that is when we are at our deepest levels of recognition of another person’s humanity.”
The accident left Engel blind. He spent 46 days in the hospital, couldn’t walk for months and couldn’t eat solid food for a year. He went through more than 300 hours of facial reconstructive surgery, and he now focuses on his patient experiences as a professional speaker in the medical services industry.
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