Hilary Williams recalls near-death experience, thankful for her 'lucky scars'.
(In article mentions during horrific accident leaving her body, looking at the event from above and going to heaven, seeing deceased relatives).
The daughter of Hank Williams Jr. survived a nearly fatal car accident and channeled her pain and recovery into music.
August 28, 2018 - Hilary Williams recalls near-death experience, thankful for her 'lucky scars'. Reported [here]. Hilary Williams’s blood pressure was 55 over nothing. She went into cardiac arrest and felt like she was drowning. She couldn’t breathe. Williams remembers feeling that she was coming out of her body on that day more than a decade ago, like she was in a helicopter looking down, slowly moving away, she said. From above, Williams said could see the stretcher, the ambulance – the entire scene of the horrific car accident. “I went through like a black hole for a minute and we went to Heaven,” she said. Williams, the daughter of country star Hank Williams, Jr., and the granddaughter of genre icon Hank Williams, Sr., said she saw her grandfather and her grandmother, Audrey. Then, she said, they turned around and walked away. “I came right back to Earth,” Williams said. “I felt like they were telling me, ‘It’s not your time yet, we’re sending you back.’”
Restarting her career
Williams took more than a decade to assimilate her thoughts into creative fuel for her new album, entitled “My Lucky Scars.” Available now, Williams co-wrote eight of the 12-song collection, including titles “Angel Take My Hand,” “Bedside Manner,” “Let Somebody Save Me," "Free” and “Sign of Life.” Bobby Tomberlin, Williams's friend and co-writer on "Free," said the singer was striding toward a successful music career when the accident stalled her momentum. She endured 30 surgeries and had to learn how to walk again. But after the pain subsided, he said she found inspiration in her journey.
"She was able to concentrate on writing and had so much more to say," he said, explaining "Free" is about her fighting for a normal life after the accident. "When you're in your early twenties, your life experiences are limited. So wow, what a thing to go through and survive." Williams knows some people won’t believe her near death experience. She said she doubted herself and believed people would think she was crazy. Months later, she decided she didn’t care if they did.
The day her life changed
Hilary Williams and her sister Holly Williams were traveling from Nashville to Louisiana in March of 2006 for their maternal grandfather’s funeral. Hilary Williams was behind the wheel, and when she glanced at her iPod, the car’s tire slid into a deep rut on Highway 61 in Mississippi. She jerked the wheel, the car spun 360 degrees in the middle of the road, turned on its side, skidded across the highway and flipped four times into a field. The wheel popped off and gas poured out of the vehicle. Bystanders – a physical therapist, a preacher and a truck driver – thought the car was going to explode with the women trapped inside. Hilary was dangling in the air by the seatbelt. She was blinded by the trauma of the accident and when she didn’t hear her sister Holly talking, she thought she was dead.
Hilary wanted to go to sleep, but the truck driver demanded she stay awake. The singer couldn’t breathe because she was bound by the seatbelt and she begged the people to push the car over. “I know there were hidden angels there because the car slowly came to the ground,” Williams said. “They said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to be able to push this. But it gently landed on the ground.’” It took the ambulance 45 minutes to arrive, but Hilary Williams was not in pain. She’d lost six pints of blood and was told she shouldn’t have survived more than 20 minutes. Her hip was turned upside down and had moved halfway down her leg. Her tibia was broken, puncturing her leg – her boot all that was holding it in place. Her collarbone was broken. Her colon was ruptured. Williams’s right femur had a compound fracture and her back, tailbone, pelvis and hips were shattered.
But, her vision returned following her near-death experience. First responders used the jaws of life to extract her from the car. And in the midst of it, Williams managed to give rescuers her mother’s and father’s telephone numbers. Her mother had to make a four-car drive to get there. Her father hopped on an airplane. “I was in shock,” explained Williams, a type 1 diabetic. “I didn’t feel anything. It didn’t hit me until an hour later.” Williams was flown by helicopter to a Memphis hospital and it wasn’t until medical personnel rolled her gurney across the roof that the pain hit. She begged them to lift her off the ground. After that, she remembers nothing else. She immediately entered an eight-hour surgery – the first of many. The first operation was to repair her colon, her second – the next day – was to address her hips and legs. During the procedure, she developed a blood clot in her hip and her heart stopped a second time.
Williams was at the Memphis hospital for a month before she was transferred by jet to Vanderbilt University Hospital where she spent another two weeks. She said she was “in and out” of the hospital for two years. “I was so broken that a lot of times the metal kept moving and they’d have to go back in and redo it,” she said, explaining that she didn’t take her first step for another six months.
Long road to recovery
When she was dismissed from the hospital, Williams spent six months in a hospital bed in her mother’s living room. All the bathrooms were on the second floor so Williams had sponge baths and a portable toilet. In the summer, she remembers that her mother took her outside and sprayed her with a water hose, which she loved. "I hated what happened, but I enjoyed taking care of her," Hilary Williams's mother, Becky Williams, said. "It was so sad to see her have setbacks and trying to learn to walk. She's just a beautiful soul. I would never want anyone to have to go through what she went through. She was determined she was going to fight." While she was bedridden, songwriter Blu Sanders visited Williams at her mother’s house. The pair co-wrote “Sign of Life,” which is featured on “My Lucky Scars,” in 20 minutes. Twelve years later, Williams still has pain from her injuries. She manages it with Pilates, massages, and physical therapy. The idea of an album – a career in music – is what kept Williams motivated. The day of the accident, her lawyer was in Los Angeles pitching her for a record deal. She has collected songs ever since. “I look back and I think, ‘Oh my gosh, how did I make it through all of that?’” Williams said. “We’re all going through something, and I just want to give people hope to not give up. God can do amazing things.”