He woke up. He went to Kohl’s. He went to Bed Bath and Beyond.
The incoming college freshman finished some last-minute shopping for college and piled it all on a bed in his family’s spare bedroom. It was Aug. 14, 2012. In two days he was leaving to start his freshman year as an engineering major at Cedarville.
However, instead of enjoying his last few days hanging out with friends and sleeping in his own bedroom like he had planned, that night Marvin Major lay comatose in Miami Valley Hospital.
“I remember there was a basketball court,” said Major, who is from Troy, Ohio, about 45 minutes northwest of Cedarville. “Then I remember there was a flirty couple sitting on a bench. And there was a birthday party going on in the pavilion. There was a swimming pool. Everything (was) just perfect. And then I went and got in my friend’s car and left. I went and parked the car near a river, and I just took a nap. That’s the last thing I remember.”
Earlier that afternoon, Christian Salazar, a tall, white, angelic-looking basketball player with golden hair and a friend of Major’s since he was a baby, asked Major to go to the park with him.
“He wanted to go to the park and play basketball with some friends,” Major said. “So I said, ‘All right, we will go to the park.’ He was playing basketball, and I’m not really a sports guy, so I was just watching.”
After watching for a bit, Major borrowed Salazar’s red Volkswagen Jetta, drove the car near a river and took a nap. He woke up hungry, turned on the car and sped off.
“I had a thing for speed. I’m just one of those guys who likes to go fast,” Major said. “I was on a country road, and it was a long straight road, so I just floored it.”
Major came up to a curve and slowed down. He went around the curve, and then somebody was in his lane.
“I went around them, and that was fine,” Major said. “Then there was an oncoming car. And of course when you are going that fast, you can’t just weave in and out of people. It doesn’t work like that. You slide all around.”
Marvin’s falling-apart 1994 Ford Explorer – The Exploder, as his friends called it — had bigger wheels and might have been able to hold onto the road, but not the little red Jetta.
“I swerved to the right to avoid the car, and then when I swerved to the right, the wheels went off the road, and the other wheels were still on the road,” Major said. “They caught and slingshotted the car back across the road, and I went off the road.”
Police reports say the car first hit a ditch, which catapulted the car in the air for the length of about two-thirds of a football field. Once the car landed, it rolled seven times. And then it came to rest, crumpled and smoking in a beanfield.
The man in the oncoming car called responders but was too scared to come toward the smoking car with a missing steering wheel and bent axles and no glass intact.
Five minutes later, emergency responders cut Major out of the car, saw he was alive and called CareFlight.
When Major hit the ditch, the steering wheel hurt his chest.
“Basically, it made one of my lungs cave in,” he said.
By the time he arrived at Miami Valley Hospital, the breathing tube that responders had put down his throat had pushed the lung back up.
“When I got to the hospital, there wasn’t much that they could do for me,” Major said. “They just sent me through an MRI machine, and I came back basically brain dead.”
His body was alive, but his brain was comatose. People began to pray and gather in the hospital waiting room. His dad sent out a text to all his friends. His grandmother, an assistant superintendent at the high school Major had attended, prayed with students. Faculty, staff and students at Cedarville prayed.
“I had family and friends praying for me from all four corners of the U.S.,” Major said. “I had friends praying for me up and down from Mexico to Nicaragua, from Brazil (and China).”
“The first five days when we weren’t getting much brain response, (doctors) were saying, ‘Yeah, he could not make it,’ but they weren’t very clear about that,” said Grant English, one of Major’s best friends and a current sophomore at Cedarville. “They were trying to beat around the bush a little bit.”
After a week of people praying, Major went back in the MRI machine. This time, results showed lots of bruising.
“I think that it was prayer that saved my life because from the moment I stepped foot in that hospital, people started praying for me,” Major said. “That’s what got me through the MRI.”
Major said divine intervention played a huge part in his survival.
“One of the first things I asked when I first woke up was, ‘Where’s Christian? Where’s Christian?’ I kept asking and asking because apparently I thought Christian was in the backseat of the accident when I wrecked. I kept telling people I know that there was somebody in the backseat of that car,” Major said. “To this day, I think that was my angel because I knew somebody was there. It wasn’t somebody. I think it was an angel or something. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what I think.”
Major said not only does he think an angel was in the car with him but that God was, too.
“It’s like God knocked me out of the front seat of that car,” Major said. “He put me in the passenger’s seat, and he took the wheel not only of the car but of my life. For my entire life, I had always put God in the backseat or the passenger seat of the car, but at that moment in time, God took over and took over my life. From that moment on, I’ve totally believed in God.”
After the second MRI, he was doing better, but he still wasn’t Marvin.
“He didn’t even look like Marvin anymore,” English said. “He could hardly talk, and he could hardly see. Both of his eyes were swollen shut. The only way he could identify me was he heard my voice, and he stuck his hand up and ran it through my hair because I had really thick, wavy hair in high school. It was the only way he knew how to identify me.”
Marvin spent a month and a half in the hospital.
“I don’t remember anything for an entire month. I mean there is just an entire month of my life that’s gone,” Major said. “That accident reduced me back to infancy. When I woke up, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t remember how to put my contacts in. I didn’t know how to do two plus two. I had to learn how to sit up in a bed. I couldn’t carry on a conversation because I couldn’t remember 30 seconds ago what you had told me. I was like Dory from Finding Nemo: ‘Hi, I’m Dory.’”
Major said once he started remembering things after about a month, he was determined to get to where he had been before the accident. A few weeks later, he walked out of the hospital, dizzy but determined.
In April 2013, about seven months after the accident, Major turned 19. He said what he wanted for his birthday was to be at Cedarville.
“I had all my college stuff mounded on a bed in our spare bedroom, and it was just sitting there,” he said. “I would just look at it, and I would be like, ‘Ughhh, you’ve got to be kidding me.’”
After five more months of recovery and therapy, Major finally took all of his stuff off the spare bedroom bed and became a freshman at Cedarville University.
“My first semester was probably one of the roughest semesters that I’m ever going to have here,” he said. “I had a very easy class load of 12 1/2 hours, but that 12 1/2 hours was like 18 for you.”
Doctors still had Major on a lot of seizure medicine because he had one questionable seizure during the CareFlight to the hospital.
“If you get in an accident with any kind of head trauma, they put you on a lot of seizure medicine, and since I’m a big guy, they put me on enough to choke an elephant.”
Major said the medicine suppressed brain functions, which made it hard for him to think clearly. He was always tired. And he began questioning whether engineering was possible with the 3-hour naps he had to take every day.
“My mom picked me up from college (for a doctor appointment), and she was like, ‘You look so tired and drained. Are you OK? Do you want us to pull you out?’ And I’d be like, ‘No, no I can make it. I can make it,’” Major said.
“Cedarville has had a huge part in helping me,” Major said. “I mean there are still people on campus that will come up to me that are like, ‘Are you Marvin Major?’”
Dr. Carl Ruby, former vice president for student life, said he told the campus about the accident so that they could pray but also to help Major feel connected when he eventually came to Cedarville.
“During my first semester here, I was riding my bike, maxed out my gears going full speed, just peddling to go to class, and (a girl) jumped right in front of me,” Major said. “She was like, ‘Are you Marvin?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah I’m Marvin. I’m about to kill you,’ not because I was mad or anything, but I was going full speed on my bike.”
Major keeps about 10 pictures of the wrecked car on his phone to show people if they ask about the accident.
He said his story has changed lives. He said people will come up to him and thank him for changing their relationship with Christ.
“God just used me to bring them to Christ,” he said. “I had no part in it.”
Major said the accident has left the right side of his body feeling perpetually numb, but it has also changed his outlook.
“I believed in God before the accident, but I always thought he was an absent God,” Major said. “He was never there, and after the accident, I saw that he was. I started to see how much he cared. My view on everything completely changed.”
Major said he is off the seizure medicine now, and his grades have skyrocketed.
“This semester is awesome compared to last semester,” he said. “And it’s only just begun.”
Crystal Goodremote is a senior journalism major and a senior reporter for Cedars. She would rather be right in the middle of the action, creating news, than stuck at home reading about it.