Visually impaired Gun Hill resident returns to work following battle with COVID-19

Gun Hill resident Cornell Williams has been visually impaired his whole life. But in April, he endured his toughest battle when he fought COVID-19.

Williams, an essential worker, is a longtime employee at Alphapointe, one of the largest employers of people who are blind or visually impaired in the United States. Commuting from his home in the Bronx to the facility in Queens, he’s the lead porter and responsible for operations in a massive complex spanning 19 buildings and more than 130,000 square feet.

He supervises six employees and helps with everything from his delivery duties to driving a forklift indoors to electrical wiring in the facility.

“I always tell my friends I don’t consider this a job, I love what I do,” he said.

When COVID-19 arrived, Williams didn’t change his routine. He went to work and continued to volunteer three times a week with the Red Cross, bringing food and medicine to seniors.

He knew he was risking his health but he felt like the risk was worth the sacrifice.

“It made me feel proud and humbled,” he recalled. Williams said one lady needed eye drops for two weeks and when he brought them she cried.

But everything changed in April. It was the first Thursday of the month and he kept coughing and by Saturday, he had no appetite and experienced difficulty breathing.

That Sunday, Williams went to Jacobi Hospital and was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was there for a week and half and it was one of the worst experiences of his life.

“The nurses were very sad and emotional,” he recalled. “The first two days I was very fearful. I didn’t know what to expect. I just kept praying. I stopped being afraid. Whatever is going to happen is going to be.”

He returned home to his wife Roslyn and five kids and quarantined for three weeks. Williams was so happy to see his family, but was also grateful to be in his own bed.

While he was in the hospital, Alphapointe went above and beyond and sent his family care packages and food and checked on them. Williams stressed that anyone who doesn’t wear a mask, social distance or thinks COVID-19 is a joke, needs to realize that it’s terrifying.

“I think reality hits when it affects them,” he stressed.

Williams, 50, was born blind, but at the age of 12 he began to get some sight back. He can see out of both eyes but at a certain distance. He wears sunglasses outside to help his vision.

He shared that if he can overcome blindness, being visually impaired and COVID-19, anything is possible.

“My advice to those that have it [COVID-19,] keep fighting and keep believing,” he said.

Alphapointe President and CEO Reinhard Mabry told the Bronx Times having an employee like Williams is a privilege. His work ethic, attitude and demeanor are one of a kind.

“I’m delighted that he recovered,” Mabry said. “He epitomizes the workforce. He has energy and a lot of fight in him. He’s really someone people should emulate.”

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