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“Nurses Saved My Life”

July 2013

Every day nurses see patients in a variety of circumstances. Some cases may be more severe than others, but no matter the case, it is part of a nurse’s instinct to ensure the best patient experience possible. This month, Marcus Engel, a professional speaker from Orlando, Fla., shares his first-hand experience of a life-threatening car accident, and how a team of nurses were vital to his survival and recovery.

Nurses saved my life. Not just one, but a team of gifted and caring professionals.

As a college freshman, after a late night hockey game, the car I was in was struck by a drunk driver. In a heartbeat, I was blind – instantly and permanently. However, blindness was the least of my life-threatening injuries. Plastic surgeons would later tell me that every bone in my face was so broken that my CT scan looked like “a bowl of corn flakes.”

I remember everything that night – the headlights, the taste of blood, lying in the street – but mostly I remember thinking my life could end at any moment. I remember lying in the intersection and hearing a nurse sprinting to my side. She placed her hands on my shoulders, then begged and demanded that I “keep still!” In that brief moment, her actions prevented any further injuries to my shattered body. To this day, I still don’t know her name, but I know that she saved my life.

I was then rushed to the emergency room, where I was greeted by a 20-year-old nurse technician named Jennifer. She not only helped treat my wounds and broken bones, but helped me maintain my sanity as I endured unimaginable pain, crushing fear and terrifying hallucinations. Jennifer never left my side. Not once.

When I awoke, Jennifer repeated these reassuring words to me: “I’m here, Marcus…I’m here.” This human presence carried me through that first wretched night, and I knew in that moment that I was not alone.

A few weeks into my recovery, I met another nurse named Barb. The vision upon which Barb first met me was probably horrifying. My head was swollen to the size of a basketball; my eyes had been sewn shut; legs in traction; and chest tubes and monitors coming out of every area of my body. After introducing herself and explaining the care that she and her fellow nurses would provide, Barb’s first question was, “Do you want me to call you Marcus or Marc?” At this point in my recovery I was blind, mute, immobile, disfigured and hanging to life, but Barb gave me the ability to assert my personality – to have a name, and not just be a patient.

Barb’s kindness didn’t just end with me. She brought my dad coffee from the nurses’ break room; she hugged my mom and cried with her when the uncertainty was too much for her to bear; she answered their tearful phone calls in the middle of the night when they just needed reassurance. Then one night, she literally saved my life. Barb was on duty the evening my Patient-Controlled Analgesia pump malfunctioned. She stayed with me throughout the night and reassuringly said, “You’re going to be okay.”

After 46 nights, I reached my morning of discharge. It was Thanksgiving and Barb was at home with her family. Knowing our bond, another nurse phoned to let her know I was going home. She left her family and friends and drove to the hospital for the sole purpose of seeing me off. As we hugged goodbye she whispered, “I had to come… no one is sending my kid home but me.”

Presence, humanity, compassion and care – those are the qualities that I saw during my interactions with these nurses. I was certainly lucky to have them.

To learn more about Marcus and his story, visit www.marcusengel.com.

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