Man dies twice but lives to tell story, thanks to strangers

Man dies twice but lives to tell story, thanks to strangers
When Herman Williams (center) suffered a medical emergency at the Nashville airport, two strangers, later identified as Bill Mixon and Terrie Layne, became his heroes. (Source: Herman Williams/WZTV/CNN)

NASHVILLE (WZTV/CNN) - Two terrifying medical incidents changed the life of a Nashville doctor forever, leading him to strive for a life of compassion for and connection with everyone he meets.

As a young orthopedic surgeon who had just been accepted to one of the best practices in the country, Dr. Herman Williams was living a charmed life with his beautiful wife.

"I was literally on the verge of achieving all my dreams," Williams said.

As a young orthopedic surgeon who had just been accepted to one of the best practices in the country, Dr. Herman Williams was living a charmed life with his beautiful wife before experiencing a terrifying medical event. (Source: Herman Williams/WZTV/CNN)
As a young orthopedic surgeon who had just been accepted to one of the best practices in the country, Dr. Herman Williams was living a charmed life with his beautiful wife before experiencing a terrifying medical event. (Source: Herman Williams/WZTV/CNN) (Source: Herman Williams/WZTV/CNN)

Then, during a pick-up basketball game between rival surgeons, Williams started feeling dizzy and decided to take himself out of the game.

“It was just fortunate my wife was the scorekeeper. She was there on the sideline, and she said I just slumped over, started foaming at the mouth, and I just died,” Williams said.

Williams had no pulse, so his friends performed CPR until the fire department arrived with a defibrillator, whose electric jolt brought him back to life.

Williams made a full recovery; although his condition made him change his career path to medical consulting.

Twenty-five years later, Williams was at the airport in Nashville when the same thing happened again.

“I see this gentleman sitting in a chair, and I acknowledged him, saying ‘Hi, good morning, how are you doing?’ ... And the last thing I heard was him saying, ‘Are you OK?’ I must have grabbed my heart, and then, I started to fall. This woman saw me, caught me and was able to gently lower me to the ground," Williams said.

When Herman Williams (center) suffered a medical emergency at the Nashville airport, two strangers, later identified as Bill Mixon and Terrie Layne, became his heroes. (Source: Herman Williams/WZTV/CNN)
When Herman Williams (center) suffered a medical emergency at the Nashville airport, two strangers, later identified as Bill Mixon and Terrie Layne, became his heroes. (Source: Herman Williams/WZTV/CNN) (Source: Herman Williams/WZTV/CNN)

The two strangers, later identified as Bill Mixon and Terrie Layne, became Williams’ heroes. Mixon, who was recovering from his own heart attack, immediately began CPR.

“Once you make that decision to start CPR, it’s you and the outcome. Regardless of the outcome, I think it’s courageous and heroic for anyone to make that decision. It really is hero work,” Williams said.

Williams decided to write a book about his experiences called “Clear: Living the Life You Didn’t Dream Of,” in which he describes how the terrifying medical events gave him a purpose: to live a life of compassion and kindness and try to connect with everyone he encounters.

In the end, Williams says we all need each other; we just don’t know when.

Copyright 2019 WZTV, Herman Williams via CNN. All rights reserved.