Teen rebounds after horrible accident

Published 1:27 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

AHOSKIE – May 2 was a typical Saturday for Ahoskie native Joseph Williams.

“Little Joe”, as he is known to his family and friends, was hanging out with a few friends as they drove around his new hometown of Greensboro.

However, in the blink of an eye, Williams’ life was turned upside down.

In the process of changing a flat tire while his cousin’s car was parked on the shoulder of US 29, a vehicle crashed into the rear of the car, pinning the 19-year-old between the vehicle and a guardrail.

“It happened so fast,” Williams said. “I blacked out for about 10 seconds and when I came to I couldn’t hold my head upright. I didn’t know what hit me.”

Unbeknownst to Williams at that time, he had suffered a C-Spine fracture to his neck. However, that was the least of his medical worries. His right leg was crushed in the mishap. Doctors at Greensboro’s Moses Cone Hospital attempted the save the leg, but were later forced to perform a partial amputation.

Now, a young man on the threshold of entering adulthood would have to deal with the fact that his life would never be the same.

But don’t underestimate Williams’ intestinal fortitude. He isn’t about to let the partial loss of a limb ruin his bright future.

On Saturday, Williams was back home in Ahoskie, the site of a Gospel Sing fundraiser to help him offset growing medical bills. He was upbeat…a broad smile covering his face.

“It’s been hard, but I’ve got to keep pushing ahead,” Williams said just prior to the start of the event held at Ahoskie Christian Center.

That attitude allowed Williams to graduate with his classmates at Southeast Guilford High School, despite spending a full month in the hospital.

“I’ve waited for my graduation night for a long time…I was determined to go across that stage, whether I had to walk or roll (in a wheelchair),” he said. “I was determined that I was going to finish what I started.”

For Williams, graduation night was June 8. He was discharged from the hospital on June 2.

“The key was how fast I could heal so I could get out in time for my graduation,” Williams said. “I must have done okay for the doctors to let me go.”

The majority of Williams’ young life was spent in Hertford County, living with his grandparents, Rudolph and Dorothy Williams of Ahoskie. He was in the middle of his junior year at Hertford County High School when he moved to Greensboro to live with his aunt and uncle, Tarsha and Randolph Howard.

“I live in Greensboro now, but it’s good to get back home every now and then,” Williams said.

As far as the fundraiser held in his honor on Saturday, Williams was at a loss for words.

“It means a lot,” he said.

After additional thought, Williams added, “This has made me realize the respect people have for others. I appreciate what is being done here for me today.”

As far as his future plans are concerned, Williams said receiving a prosthesis was number one on his list.

“I’m looking forward to that,” he noted. “It should be here soon. It’s the latest in artificial legs…one with electronic sensors.”

Williams is also planning to go into business for himself as a computer programmer.

“My cousin is in the same line of work up in Virginia,” he said. “I’m going to learn the trade from him.”

Williams, the son of Gloria Williams of Ahoskie and Joseph Lassiter of Murfreesboro, is without medical insurance. Saturday’s event was held in an effort to help meet his medical needs.

His aunt, Tammy Mizelle, organized the Gospel Sing, an event that included the Ahoskie Christian Center Choir, the Keepers of Faith, Christy Crews and the Golden Harmoneers.

Mizelle has also set-up the Joseph L. Williams Benefit Account at Southern Bank in Ahoskie. All donations are welcomed.

Two other Hertford County natives were with Williams on the night of the accident. Tierra Outlaw and Travis Cofield were both injured, but were treated and released soon after the accident.

Outlaw, the daughter of Janice and Colie Stephenson of Murfreesboro, is a 2008 HCHS graduate. She now attends Guilford Community College in Greensboro. At the time of the accident, she was inside the vehicle that Williams was changing the tire.

Cofield, the son of Mary Cofield of Ahoskie and Matthew Eley (his stepmother is Sarah Eley) of Murfreesboro, was standing outside the vehicle at the time of the crash. He was in Greensboro visiting family and friends.

The families of Outlaw and Cofield passed along their thanks for all the prayers and support for their respective children involved in the accident.