FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A South Florida man who spent 95 days in the hospital after being strike by lightning as he sat in his wheelchair is finally headed home following a remarkable recovery.
Speaking at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he underwent treatment, Nick Williams said he has no memory of being struck back in August. He said the last he remembers was that he was under a tree near his Pompano Beach home reading his bible when he noticed a storm was approaching.
“I was sort of hanging out outside on a nice summer day and thought meh, I’ve been outside in more dangerous conditions, he said.
The strike ignited the 28-year-old’s wheelchair. A neighbor saw the sparks, called 911 and then ran over to get him out of the chair. On the way to the hospital, things got worse.
“He had suffered a heart attack and died for four minutes, the paramedics’ report said it took four minutes for them to revive him,” said Williams’ mother Donna Pappas.
He was initially taken to North Broward Medical. He was then transported to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“He was as sick as they come,” said Dr. Nicholas Namias, a burn and trauma specialist. “He was unresponsive, on a ventilator breathing machine with some neurological signs and symptoms that would suggest that he wouldn’t recover.”
His fiancee, Emily Netter, remembers getting the call.
“It was horrific, it was absolutely horrific. I actually initially thought it was a joke, I didn’t laugh or anything but I was in such disbelief, I was like there’s just no way.”
Williams suffered burns, but his most severe injuries impacted his brain. While he was in a coma for a week, his doctors dealt with a case of pneumonia he developed.
He made it, however, and then began intense physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Williams is a survivor twice over. He also lived through a horrific car crash that put him in a wheelchair back in 2008.
“It didn’t look good at the time, I was clinging to life,” he said. “It almost makes these circumstances easier to deal with, having some sort of already been there kind of thing, almost like okay now what.”
Williams said he understands he’s good at beating the odds. The chance of being struck by lightning for someone in a wheelchair is 750,000 to 1.
“It sort of put it in perspective that at absolutely any time, in any circumstance, something can happen that can shift or your perspective on life, be grateful for whatever opportunity or circumstance you’re in,”
“I’ll definitely have greater respect for the weather,” he added.
Williams said he and Emily are now focused on their wedding.
Williams said he was wearing a cross when he was struck, the chain was seared into his neck and disintegrated, the only part that withstood the bolt was the cross, the family says they now carry that with them.