Denise Williams moved to Charlotte from Silver Springs, M.D. about four months ago. She is an entrepreneur who makes body butter and enjoys nature.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, Denise reflects on a remarkable journey during which doctors told her family that without drastic intervention, she had just hours to live.
When we asked Denise what brought her to Charlotte, her answer was simple: Amazing Grace.
In this installment of QCity Newcomers, Williams talks about her journey, her hopes for the future and plans for the holiday.
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What brought you here?
I grew up in Miami, Florida, but had lived in Atlanta for about 20 years. Near the end of June 2020, I took a vacation back to Florida. By July 4, 2020, I had developed Covid-19. I had lost my sense of smell and taste, but things got worse when I began struggling to breathe. I could hardly breathe in, and I knew I had to go to the hospital.
I was not treated at the first couple of hospitals I went to, because they were filled with people. I was uncomfortable being around others. Knowing that I had Covid, I did not want to be in the emergency room where I could potentially expose them to this disease.
At the third hospital, I was able to get in as soon as I came through the door. They put me in a wheelchair, because I could not walk and could hardly breathe. I remained in the hospital for one week before I was discharged with a huge canister of oxygen and medications.
I do not think I should have been dismissed at all. I spent one night at home, where I had to sleep sitting up in a chair before calling 911 because of severe breathing difficulties.
I soon became incoherent, and my daughter took over the responsibility for making medical decisions for me. Having been told that I had three to four hours to live without being intubated, she gave doctors permission to place me in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.
I spent 30 days on the ventilator, and it saved my life. It slowed everything down so that they could figure out how to treat the pneumonia in my lungs and help me breathe again. Then I was put in isolation for 30 days to begin the healing process. I would spend a total of 90 days in the hospital.
Being in isolation in a small room was horrible. When I first got off the ventilator, I was totally paralyzed. I remember a walker being brought into my room, and with the help of physical therapists, I was able to regain limited mobility but was unable to walk without assistance. Finally, I was discharged to outpatient physical therapy, where I learned to walk with the aid of a walker.
I was still unable to care for myself, so I moved in with my daughter. Six months later, her job transferred her to Silver Springs, M.D. and I went there with her.
After spending three months in the hospital, being on a ventilator and struggling to regain my mobility, moving away from my home of 20 years was a difficult shift.
Lots of Covid survivors talk about the physical aspects of the disease. For me, it was both physical and psychological. I developed anxiety and [post-traumatic stress disorder]. I had trouble going into stores and other places where there were people. It was unbelievably bad. I was in therapy for a year before things settled down, physically and mentally.
I was able to walk without aid and ready to regain my independence.
Living in Maryland was different than living in the South. I loved the space and the change of seasons in the South, and I knew I did not want to spend the rest of my life in the freezing cold in Maryland or the fast pace of Atlanta. I made a couple of visits to Charlotte and loved it. The pace was slower but not too slow, and the area was beautiful. Four months ago, I made the move to Charlotte.
As Thanksgiving approaches, my thoughts have turned to thanking God for life and my health. I have a great life now. I am independent of my daughter of 24 years, and I am very grateful to be able to be on my own, especially after what I have gone through. I am thankful for this opportunity to experience life in a new way, as well as my daughter, family and friends.
I am planning to go to Miami for Thanksgiving to spend some time with my family. I plan to celebrate on the beach.
What do you like best about Charlotte?
I am a nature girl. I love Lake Norman and Latta Park. There is also a park on the water in Cornelius that I love. I go Uptown and just ride around. During the summer, I liked it when there were a lot of activities for the community.
What do you like least about Charlotte?
Well, I have only been here four months, but I find it a little difficult to connect. I am looking for entrepreneurial, empowerment and business owner events and seminars.
I want to participate in events, conferences and town hall meetings.
What has been your most memorable moment since moving here?
I guess it was during the summertime. A few events held on Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte were pretty exciting.
Instagram handle: denise_thesurvivor
Linkedin handle: W. Denise Williams
Facebook handle: Denise Williams
Personal or Professional Website: www.myshaybutter.com
Editor’s note: If you are new to the Charlotte area (18 months or less), we want to meet you. Click here to share your story.