Humans of UK: Aaron Williams enjoys life after traumatic brain injury


Brady Saylor

Aaron Williams, a sophomore civil engineering major, poses for a photo on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, at the Ralph G. Anderson Building in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Brady Saylor | Staff

Laurel Swanz and Hannah Stanley

Aaron Williams was on his way to pick up his girlfriend in 2015 for his junior year homecoming, a moment he should’ve remembered forever.

Forty-eight days later, Williams woke up from a coma in a hospital bed at the Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital with no recollection of how he got there.

“I don’t remember the crash,” he said.

Williams later learned his car hydroplaned from the pouring rain, hit a tree and caught on fire before he ever got to his girlfriend’s. Two strangers pulled him out of the car, saving him from the fire.

“The next point I remember was waking up, the first day I woke up from my coma,” he said.

The first night in the hospital, the neurologist told his parents he had only a 10% chance of living through the night and, later that week, a 90% chance of being mentally or physically handicapped for the rest of his life.

Due to the crash, he was left with a traumatic brain injury affecting the left side of his brain and the right side of his body. This impacted motor skills such as the rate of speed he can write with his right hand.

Nonetheless, Williams defied such odds, walking out of the hospital 60 days after the accident. In his words, he is now living his everyday life with no handicaps, only difficulties.

However, the process of getting there was far from easy.

“I had to relearn everything,” he said.

During the three years following the accident, Williams underwent multiple forms of therapy to be where he is today, including speech, physical, occupational, visionary and even some musical.

Williams’s vision became impaired afterwards, causing him to see double and wear glasses with special prisms to prevent him from seeing such.

He said he had to relearn all of his motor skills like walking, talking and eating, actions he took for granted prior to the accident, humbling him into the better version of himself today.

Faith has always been important in my life, and I would say … my recovery and the car wreck and everything just made my faith stronger.

— Aaron Williams

The simplest of tasks were challenging, like being able to swallow liquids again. While in treatment, Williams had a tracheostomy to help him with his breathing, as well as a feeding tube that affected the overall strength of his throat. A thickener was added to his liquids to allow for easier swallowing.

Despite the challenges, he found silver linings through the process.

One day while he was still in the hospital, a friend texted him “(G)oing to Cane’s, what do you want?” where he responded with “chicken and a sweet tea.” The nurse later walked in to check his vitals and became mad once she saw the sweet tea.

Williams laughs at the story now and shares how once she had added the thickener into his tea, the flavor was ultimately ruined.

As he got closer to his release date, the amount of visitors slowed down, but his parents were always there for him as well as his faith.

“Faith has always been important in my life, and I would say … my recovery and the car wreck and everything just made my faith stronger,” he said.

Williams is now enjoying life as a college student, studying civil engineering, and is back to his favorite hobbies of hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors.