Blind Orlando man uses near-death experience to make a difference in health care

He says it starts with two simple words: I'm here

ORLANDO, Fla. – An Orlando-area man is using his near-death experience to send a message to medical professionals through his "I'm Here" movement. 

"I want to remind health care professionals that they have the ability to be present and attentive and empathetic to patients and families. Presence is the cornerstone of caregiving," Marcus Engel, founder of the movement said.

Twenty-five years ago, Engel was in a car crash that left him blind. He was a college freshman at the time and had gone to a football game but never made it back home. 

"That crash not only crushed every bone in my face but also caused instantaneous bilateral sight loss," Engel said. He remembers he woke up in a hospital but couldn't see anything.

"There was a 20-year-old patient care tech who held my hand in the emergency room that night and who kept repeating the two most compassionate words that any human being can say to another. I'm here," Engel said. He said it was that health care provider who paved the way for him to get his message across. 

After his recovery process, which took two years in rehabilitation and more than 350 hours of reconstructive facial surgeries-- he came to a realization of the power those two words had on him. 

"It was through that experience and then months and months of recovery and surgeries and hospitalizations that I started to witness how well some caregivers take care of patients; how poorly other caregivers took care of patients."

Over the course of 15 years, he's published four books in hopes of changing the culture of care through his I'm Here movement.

His wife of 12 years has been by his side since the first book.

"So many things Marcus teaches everyone but teaches me personally: tenacity has to be one. You get up, you don't listen to how you feel, you absolutely get up and do what needs to be done and it just comes from this inner strength that he has," Marvelyne Engel said.

She was the editor for his first book and continues to help him.

"I think part of it is the way he's made and wired but I believe a lot of it is just a decision he made, that he's not going to give up and he's not going to stop."

Engel is also a speaker and an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame.

"We are teaching pre meds how to be with another human being during their time of suffering. These students are doing volunteer projects and it really all relates back to the moment that Jennifer held my hand and said: I'm here."

For information on where to buy Engel's books, click here.

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