‘Miraculous’: 18-year-old walks in high school graduation ceremony months after near fatal crash

Daniel Marshall may not have received his diploma had he not survived a car crash late on New Year’s Eve this past year thanks to the help of a stranger. (Source: WMTV)
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 2:25 PM EDT
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JANESVILLE, Wis. (WMTV/Gray News) - A high school graduate in Wisconsin most likely would not have lived to walk across the stage had a good Samaritan not stepped in to save his life after a crash.

Daniel Marshall graduated from Janesville Parker High School last Friday.

The 18-year-old may not have received his diploma had he not survived a car crash late on New Year’s Eve this past year.

WMTV reports Marshall received a call from a friend that night who had too much to drink. Marshall was sober, so he drove over the snowy roadways and got his friend home safely.

While on his way back home after dropping his friend off, Marshall lost control of his truck in wintry conditions in the Town of Janesville.

At the same time Marshall lost control, David Rezin and his wife were driving home in the opposite direction. The couple saw Marshall’s car slide into their lane and hit the vehicle in front of them.

“He went from his lane into our lane in a second,” Rezin said. “At that time my wife screamed, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re dead! We’re dead!’”

Rezin managed to avoid the wreckage. He pulled over and immediately raced to the mangled truck to see how he could help.

“It was a horrific scene,” Rezin said. “Daniel’s passenger seat was at 90 degrees. Daniel was slumped over. Both of his windows were blown out. I checked for a pulse. He had a very light pulse.”

Fortunately, Rezin had an extensive background in musculoskeletal and orthopedic care and knew what to do to try to keep Marshall alive and prevent further injury. He opened Marshall’s airway and stabilized his spine while this took place gasoline leaked from the truck and first responders arrived on the scene.

“While they were performing the Jaws of Life, I continued to hold Daniel’s neck,” Rezin said. “I had one arm through the back window, one arm through his window, and luckily got him all stabilized. It didn’t look good for that first 24 hours or even more than that.”

A Rock County Sheriff’s Office deputy knocked on John and Theresa Marshall’s door early on New Year’s Day to let them know their only child was in the hospital fighting for his life.

In an interview with WMTV, John Marshall broke down in tears when describing how difficult it was to see their only child clinging to life in a hospital bed.

“There were 12 days when we didn’t really know what would happen,” he said. “There were numerous times I wondered if he’d have a life, or what kind of life.”

The doctors presiding over the teen shared with his parents just how close he had come to paralysis or worse.

“Had Daniel moved his head either way, his spinal cord would have torn,” Theresa Marshall said.

Rezin’s willingness to stop and help and to use his medical training to keep Daniel Marshall stabilized was critical, as was all the care doctors and nurses gave the teen through his recovery.

Theresa Marshall said they were really lucky when looking back on how her son persevered through surgery and 40 days of treatment at American Family Children’s Hospital.

“It was really rough; 40 days in the hospital,” she said. “To see him come from where he was New Year’s Day to today, it’s amazing. Absolutely amazing.”

Rezin said he would not have imagined that Daniel Marshall would not have been able to walk again and would be confined to a wheelchair.

“It’s really something miraculous at this point in time that he’s (Daniel) able to do what he’s able to do,” he said.

Daniel Marshall knows how fortunate he was that the right people did the right thing at the crash scene that night.

“I just feel really grateful that he (Rezin) was there and that he knew what to do and how to do it. I’m just thankful to be here and alive,” Daniel Marshall said.

The teen said he is also grateful for his parents, who have been at his side through every difficult moment.

During Friday’s graduation ceremony, Daniel Marshall’s family and friends cheered loudly as his name was read aloud.

Thanks to a twist of fate and the compassion of a stranger, the 18-year-old’s journey on the road of life continues as he heads to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall to study architecture.