“I’m here.”

These two words meant the most of any that Marcus Engel heard when he woke up in the hospital, blind and in horrific pain, with no idea what had happened. He’d been struck and nearly killed by a drunken driver going 50 mph through an intersection.

Every time he woke up, a caregiver was there to hold his hand and say, “I’m here.”

Then only 18, Engel’s face was crushed and he lost his eyesight. He had more than 350 hours of reconstructive facial surgery and two years of rehabilitation ahead of him. He learned how to adapt to his changed physical abilities.

Those words, “I’m here,” from someone he couldn’t see told him he was not alone, that people were there to help him. Engel built a career on those two words.

Harold Courtois, CEO of Memorial Health System of Abilene, has seen Engel’s talk twice at Healthcare Service Excellence conventions.

“It changed my life emotionally and mentally,” Courtois said. “I’ll never be the same.”

He feels so strongly that Engel’s message is one everyone needs to hear that Memorial Health System is bringing Engel to Abilene for two free public programs, “The Other End of the Stethoscope,” on Friday.

The first will be at 2 p.m. at Nichols Education Center, 1300 N. Brady, the lower level of Learn and Grow Depot.

The second will be at 6 p.m. at Abilene High School auditorium.

Free continuing education credit will be available for nurses.

Educational institutions also can benefit from the presentation on disability awareness, prevention and inspiration on achievement.

Engel will bring two messages, Courtois said. One is how to improve the patient experience, the other is the hazards of drunken driving. Engel’s injuries were so severe that he wasn’t expected to live, Courtois said.

Engel talks about being a patient from a blind man’s experience, listening to what is said.

“He’s made me aware of how people respond to what we say,” Courtois said, “how important it is to be there for patients.”

Memorial has been focusing on customer service for the past year and a half, he said.

Health care professionals deal with bureaucracy, policies and time crunches as well the physical, emotional and spiritual demands of the job, Engel said. Even the best caregivers can suffer from compassion fatigue with all the demands of the job.

He travels extensively, giving his keynote speech. The author of four books, he’s also started a not-for-profit organization, the I’m Here Movement, to remind caregivers how important these words and their presence are for patients and their families.

Engel holds a B.S. in sociology from Missouri State University and a M.S. in narrative medicine from Columbia University in New York City.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2017 from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame where he teaches nursing and pre-med students the art of “being with.”

Engel is a Certified Patient Experience Professional through the Beryl Institute and

a Certified Speaking Professional through the National Speakers Association.

Engel lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife Marvelyne and his Seeing Eye dog, Elliott, who will accompany Engel to Abilene.

Contact Jean Bowers at reporter2@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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