Marcus Engel, a national speaker, visited Eastern Michigan University on Tuesday to talk about experiences that changed his life forever.
Engel was in a car accident during his freshman year of college and during his road to recovery, he gained a new positive perspective on life.
“When I was sixteen, I was in a fender bender,” he said. “I hit the car of the principal of my school. He told me not to worry because you should only worry about the things that you can change, not the things that you cannot.”
The words his principal told him stayed with him, but he did not put them into use until after his serious accident.
“We were driving home from a hockey game and I was riding shot gun,” he said. “We were at an intersection and started to go when the light turned green. I looked at the passenger window, but instead of seeing cars drive by, all I saw was light. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what I was looking at was the headlights of a white car that was racing towards us. We were in a head on collision. The car flipped upside down and I do not remember how I got out of the car.”
Engel was in a shock that allowed him to block out part of the memory of the crash.
“The first thing that I remember was that I was lying head down on the pavement all of the muscles in my face were broken,” Engel said. “I was in so much pain, but I could not scream because my mouth was full of gas, blood and broken teeth. I could not get enough oxygen into my mouth to scream. It was at that moment that I thought that I was going to die.”
Engel woke up in the hospital the next day and he could not see, hear, smell or speak since he was given a tracheotomy.
“I tried to communicate with the nurses by drawing out letters on my bed sheets but that did not work,” Engel said. “One nurse came up with the idea that I would put up one finger for yes and two fingers for no. My aunt was an operating room nurse, so she brought me a pen and paper.
“The hardest thing that I had to ask her was if my three friends that rode in the car with me were ok.”
He learned he was blind and that he would need facial reconstruction surgery, a year’s worth of surgery, and another year’s worth of rehabilitation.
Upon finding this out, Engel simply wrote “Why?” on his pad of paper.
“My aunt answered you do not get anywhere by asking why, you do the best with what you got and you should not worry about what you cannot change,” he said.
He requested a volunteer from the audience and asked her what it would be like to wake up in the morning without any senses. She had a difficult time imagining what she would do.
His life perspective changed because he realized it was a miracle that he suffered no brain damage.
He still had his friends and family, and through his injuries he realized the importance of his relationships with other people.
Engel went back to college after completing a program to teach him how to live independently.
“I tried to show everyone my abilities despite my disability,” Engel said. “Even when I do these talks I like to see how people’s questions change from can you do this to how do you do this.”
Tabatha Peterson, a senior and criminal justice major, said, “I came for the learning beyond the classroom credit. I did not expect to be moved by his speech. I cannot believe that someone can take something as tragic as being hit by a drunk driver and turn it into something positive.”
Paige Vedder a junior and biology major said, “I was interested by what he said about health care. Since I am thinking about a nursing career, I liked it when he said that the most helpful thing that a nurse said to him was that she was there.”
Matt Honig, a junior and computer science major, was also moved by Engel’s experience.
“I liked it when he described going though a depression after his accident,” he said. “It made his story more relatable that he explained to us the effort that he had to put forth to become a more positive person.”