By Trey Hunter
Mustang’s Blake Williams can’t remember exactly what has happened over the last year.
He can’t tell you what caused it and can’t tell you much about the process of fighting through it, but he can tell you that he’s slowly getting better and has the strength to encourage those who are fighting the same thing.
In the spring of 2010, Williams injured his right shoulder after pitching in a baseball game. Not only did the injury end a potential pitching career, it caused scar tissue to build up in between the clavicle and top rib bone, causing improper space for blood and nerve flow. This led to symptoms no parent could imagine watching their child go through.
“We noticed a lot of things going wrong,” Tammy Williams, Blake’s mother, said. “We thought he was losing his vision, we noticed he couldn’t be in closed environments and he was getting body tremors and becoming very nauseated and weak.
He would tell us he was having hearing difficulties and he had a dull feeling instead of having thoughts run through his mind. The doctor told us it was like Blake was going through a stroke that took three years to process.”
Williams was properly diagnosed with Dysautonomia at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Mich. last August.
Dysautonomia is also known as autonomic dysfunction with orthostatic Intolerance and high blood pressure, causing improper blood flow that can lead to tachycardia (fast heart rate), bradycardia (slow heart rate), palpitations, chest discomfort, low blood pressure, light headedness, gastrointestinal problems, excessive fatigue, exercise intolerance, nausea, visual disturbances, weakness, shortness of breath, mood swings, anxiety, vertigo and migraines.
The disease caused Williams to not only miss the entire 2013 football season, it also caused him to miss his entire junior year in school.
“It was like I was dead for seven months,” Williams said. “I can’t remember a whole lot over that time. It felt almost like I was in a coma. I didn’t get to see my friends or family, I couldn’t play any sports, I wasn’t able to go to school. I really couldn’t do anything and I couldn’t remember it either.”
After being diagnosed with the disease, the Williams family flew out to Newport Beach, Calif. for a successful TVAM/angioplasty procedure performed by Dr. Michael Arata, MD, of Synergy Health Concepts. The surgery was able to decompress each of Williams’ two jugular veins and a vein running through his kidney as well, producing immediate results both Williams and his family are thankful to see.
“After the angioplasty we noticed immediate improvements,” Tammy Williams said. “He started to get color back in his face, his vision started to become more vivid and he started to have thoughts race through his head again. His vision improved so much he said it was like somebody colored the sky with markers.”
Now Williams faces recovery. He still feels the effects of his diagnosis, but not nearly to the extent as he did a year ago. During Mustang’s team camp earlier in the month, he was able to go full throttle during the first day, however, was limited during the final two days.
“It’s an amazing feeling to get back out on the field, but I’m taking it day by day,” Williams said. “I thought I was 100 percent on the first day of team camp and then it hit me. When it hits, it hits like a ton of bricks. I could barely walk the second day, but with rest, I was able to get back into the summer pride workouts this week.”
He wasn’t able to practice during the first week of spring drills because he wasn’t in school last year, however, he said during the second week he felt good. He still had moments of dizziness and exhaustion, but was able to recover before team camp.
Williams still doesn’t hesitate to count his blessings. He recently visited Oklahoma University’s football camp, invited personally by the Sooners’ offensive coordinator, Josh Heupel and was recently given permission to re-enroll as a junior in school and on the field. He was also reminded of a few more blessings by quarterback and friend, Chandler Garrett.
“Chandler (Garrett) told Blake that his mailbox was full in the field house,” Tammy Williams said. “Blake had no idea he even had a mailbox. So Chandler brought him a huge stack of letters from different colleges that had built up over the last year. That was amazing. To see a stack of letters from coaches still looking at Blake was just a great feeling.”
Williams may not be able to recount everything that has happened over the last three years, however, now with a clear mind, one thing sticks out to him the most.
“I’m very thankful and very blessed,” Williams said. “I’ve been given a chance to do things I love again. That gives me the chance to let those who are going through the same thing know that there is a reason to stay strong and have faith. It’s a chance for me to witness and give my testimony, proving that God really is good.”