President of the Abilities Club advocates for the disabled after coming back from the dead.
By Isabella Vodos, Staff Writer
A bullet through the head, a stroke during surgery and a blood clot that went from his lungs to his heart could not stop William Craig.
Serving in the Air National Guard, Craig was aware of the danger of the job; however, his life-threatening incident happened after he was discharged from the service in 1986. Santa Monica’s Kramer Motors hired Craig to work in finance. Craig, then in his mid-twenties, received a mission to repossess a vehicle for the company.
His day took a turn for the worse once he entered Lynwood and stumbled upon gang activity. As he drove through the neighborhood, a .45 caliber bullet broke through the windshield.
“I thought it was a car backfiring at something,” said Craig, who is the president of the Abilities Club. “Next thing I knew we had a car chasing and shooting at us. It was like a movie. Bullets were breaking the windows. I told my partner to dive under the dashboard. I got flipped around driving backwards and leaned over the steering wheel, and a bullet came through the windshield and hit the top of my head.”
Craig was rushed to Saint Frances hospital where he was pronounced dead. But after six minutes, doctors were able to resuscitate him. Waking up from his coma after many complications during surgery, the veteran was left paralyzed from the waist down.
“It was a traumatizing situation,” said Craig. “When I woke up, I saw all these medical people saying ‘welcome back.'"
To Craig, it was a miracle from God that he came back.
After the brain injury and subsequent stroke, Craig suffered from Triplegia — the paralysis of three of his limbs.
His right hand is the only part of his upper body that was not impaired and has full mobility. He restored 85 percent of movement to his right leg and acquired limited movement in his left leg. Through physical therapy, he also gained some control of his left arm.
The South Central Los Angeles native developed strong memory skills after his injury. He was able to memorize languages and taught himself Spanish — which he speaks fluently.
After the accident, Craig’s daughter Courtney was born. He calls her a “miracle child,” and that is why he gave her the name that means “court of God.” The doctors didn’t expect him to have children due to the paralysis.
As part of his rehabilitation, Craig visited clinics in Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona. He decided to settle in Arizona and build a house with his wife, who later left him.
“I felt like I was pushing my wife away,” said Craig. “I was too dependent on her to help me with the activities of my daily life. She felt overwhelmed having our two kids to care for and an adult husband who couldn't care for himself.”
In spite of all his obstacles, including prostate cancer, Craig became an accomplished writer and poet. He released his book “21st Century Proverbs of William Craig” in 2016. The new writer won a $100 award from the Poetry Magazine Contest for his poem “Rhapsody.” He also joined a writer’s group called “Deep Well Writers,” where they helped him publish his first book “Mirrors of the Heart.”
“What encouraged me to write ‘Mirrors of the Heart’ was Proverb 29 in the Bible — ‘As a face is reflected in water, so the heart of man reflects the man’,” said Craig.
Craig is the president of the Valley College Abilities Club, which meets Tuesday and Thursday in the North Gym. The club was designed to bring awareness to the disabled community and give a venue for members of the community to gather. The club is currently in the process of expanding to all nine LACCD campuses.
“Our club is fun, because we do events such as open mic nights and poetry,” said Joe Hernandez, assistant faculty advisor of the club. “Right now, we have seven people in the abilities club and welcome more.”
Outside of college, Craig helps bring awareness to the disabled by speaking at schools, churches and other organizations.
“I encourage disabled people to do what they can do,” said Craig. “They have an ability that needs to be recognized.”