Herman J. Williams went to hell and back. No, literally. Seriously.
The author of Clear!: Living the Life You Didn’t Dream Of (Atkins & Greenspan Writing) had everything under control. He was happy, healthy, and headed for a successful career as an orthopedic surgeon, the societal fast-track to security and stability. As it turns out, however, even someone doing everything right can suffer something that makes it all go wrong. Herman was playing basketball, actually just sitting on the bench, when his body ceases to function. What follows are many painful years of recovery, with many instances of setbacks but also some powerful self-discovery.
This isn’t a story you hear every day. It’s a special, mind-blowing story that’s also absolutely real, and we have the survivor here to provide some extra details. What may surprise you about the recount isn’t the terrifying experience of a medical crisis, but the redemptive spark of hope that led Williams to live a life better than he could have ever dreamed of. To read the review of Clear!: Living the Life You Didn’t Dream Of, check out the BookTrib article here.
Q: During an innocent pickup basketball game, you suddenly collapse and your heart gives out. No pulse. No breathing. Pupils dilated. Can we even ask what kind of thoughts go through your mind at that moment?
A: I think what you may be getting at is, did I see, “the light”? Unfortunately, I only remember warming up for the game. The next thing I remember is waking up in the ICU later that night, where I extubated myself. When I woke up, I had terrible short term memory loss. I kept asking the same thing: “WHAT HAPPENED?” My wife would answer, but if she walked away it was like I just saw her for the first time again when she returned. I would keep repeating, “WHAT HAPPENED?”
Q: Your book “Clear!” is your story of surviving that terrible incident and rebuilding your life into something you never saw coming. Was this book more painful to write, more therapeutic, or both?
A: More therapeutic as I recollected on all of the blessings to date. As horrible as the events I wrote about were, there was always a silver lining. It took a while to realize this, and when you are dealing with a life-threatening disease, you need to give yourself time to mourn. Then at some point you have to say, “Time to move on.” I was able to rehabilitate myself and get back to work after the cardiac crisis.
Q: About the idea of “living a life you never dreamed of,” how difficult was it to hit the reset button and build a new career for yourself?
A: Once I accepted that I was not going to be able to live the life I dreamed about and had visually played out in my mind (you will not be the team doctor for the Los Angeles Lakers!) I focused on what I was good at and how I could convert my training and education into another successful career. It was a painful and lengthy process of retraining and re-focusing on what my purpose in life was. I was finally able to find peace in my new dream. I also accepted the fact that I was meant to do something different than I initially thought. We have all heard the expression, “You make plans and God laughs?” There was a different journey for me to take.
Q: What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from your life experience described in the book?
- Nothing is guaranteed.
- Unconditional love and family support is vital to your survival after a life crisis
- Believe in something bigger than you
- Resilience trumps pain
- I’m not afraid of death
Q: What has been the most gratifying outcome of what happened to you?
A: I have always discovered the road to recovery. I have not sustained 4 cardiac arrests. Fortunately, I have an implantable defibrillator and I have had bystanders present every time. Furthermore, having someone risk doing CPR and basically assuming responsibility for the outcome; once you start chest compressions, it’s hard to uncouple the outcome of your actions. To do CPR is the height of bravery. Also, My wife is by my side no matter what happens. She just turns into “Superwoman.” I don’t know how she does it
Q: What is the main message you’d like readers of your book to come away with?
A: Believe in yourself and your ability to accept and overcome a traumatic life crisis. What you set out to do in life is just a dream. It may come true or there might be another more beautiful dream waiting for you.
Q: How are you feeling these days?
A: Fantastic! Blessed and Loved.