Dan Williams standing outside with Dr. Mark Lee, Dr. Cassandra Lee and Dr. Sabrina Evans

Patient survives tragic accident with the help of UC Davis Health nurses and physicians


It has been almost two years since Dan Williams woke up in his living room pinned under a car that had crashed into his Rancho Cordova home.

Minutes earlier, he had been watching the NFC championship game with his wife and mother, as his beloved 49ers hosted the Green Bay Packers. Now, Williams was lying under a car with a ruptured spleen, broken sternum, a myocardial contusion or a bruise to his heart muscle and a broken arm.

“I don't remember much after waking up, a lot of it comes in flashes,” Williams recalled. “I remember seeing lights blinking, hearing sirens, and thinking I must be in an ambulance.”

Mark Williams standing outside with nurse Erin Kozlowski
Dan Williams and UC Davis Health registered nurse Erin Kozlowski, who has worked in the medical surgical intensive care unit since 2011.

The accident occurred after an alleged drunk driver crashed into the home, killing his mother and sending both Williams and his wife Lorrie to the hospital.

Williams was rushed to UC Davis Health’s Department of Emergency Medicine, the area’s only level I trauma center.

“There were 20 or so people rushing in and out of the room,” recalled Williams. “But there was one nurse who stayed with me, holding my hand, and I just kept saying to her ‘You can't leave me’ repeatedly. Being able to have someone to focus on in that moment was so important for me.”

For Williams, the following days were a blur. He faded in and out of consciousness between procedures. Mark Lee, vice chair of education and chief for orthopaedic trauma service, and fellow surgeon Sabrina A. Evans, associate program director for cardiothoracic surgery, coordinated and performed multiple surgeries. Those included a procedure to insert three metal plates and 36 screws to repair his breastbone.

“The level of care I received was amazing, it felt like clockwork,” said Williams. “I wish everyone could receive the same care I got.”

Over the next few months, Williams needed additional surgeries to repair his rotator cuff and bicep tendon. Cassandra A. Lee, chief of Sports Medicine and residency program director, performed the procedures and helped coordinate his physical therapy treatment.

“All of the physicians did such an amazing job of explaining my procedures and educating me on my treatment plans,” said Williams. “It was empowering to be involved in the process like that.”

What stood out the most for Williams during his stay at UC Davis Health was the level of nursing care he received.

“There wasn't a moment I felt alone or worried about the care I was receiving,” said Williams. “The nurses were so calming and reassuring, it helped me mentally relax and process what I had just gone through.”

During one challenging night in the ICU, Williams recalls waking up in extreme pain. UC Davis Health nurse Erin Kozlowski was already standing at his bedside ready to help.

“Waking up and seeing that Erin was already there created so much trust for me,” remembered Williams. “It felt like she was always there fighting for me.”

Now, nearly two years later Williams has fully recovered from his injuries. He has full mobility and is living a full life. However, throughout his long recovery, Williams said there were lessons he learned from what happened.

“It's a painful reminder what one minute to the next can bring,” said Williams. “Tomorrow is not promised and my focus is now on living life to the fullest.”

Since the accident, Williams has moved his entire family to UC Davis Health for their primary care.

“There is no other group of people I would want to handle the medical needs for my family and I,” said Williams. “I truly appreciate the care I received and still continue to receive to this day.”