New Paltz Center made resident Dustin Williams' dream come true

We gave him wings!

- November 10, 2017

As featured in the Mid-Hudson Valley Patch

When 30 year-old Newburgh native Dustin Williams won the ultimate first prize raffle at an end-of-summer carnival at New Paltz Center, he didn't even hear his name called. In fact, he was in disbelief that he won a prize which was to fly in a small private four-seater plane, the Piper PA-28 Cherokee, for 30-minutes. For Dustin, who is also a food lover, connoisseur and cook at heart, to win something like this was a burst of good luck, especially after two years of fighting a disease that had affected his ability to walk....a disease that cost him his job and changed the way he lived on a daily basis.

It was two years ago when Dustin started to discover that standing and being mobile at work would be nearly impossible. He had no idea what was happening to him. Dustin held an important supervisory position for Zaika Foods Distribution, a food packing company in New Windsor, New York and after he parted ways with Zaika due to health and safety issues, he spent much of 2016 into 2017 at home working privately on his legs trying to strengthen them. After all, he didn't know he was hit with "nuerosarcoidosis", a form of sarcoidosis, a rare brain and central nervous system inflammatory disease that directly impedes on the ability to walk and the usage of hands. Additionally, it's also a long-term disorder that affects many parts of the body, mostly the lungs.

"I didn't know what was going on," said Dustin. "I just knew that I was almost 30 years old, that I loved my job at Zaika and I needed to get better."

It wouldn't get better on its own. One day last August, Dustin couldn't feel his legs, he kept falling and sliding off his bed. He was taken to Mid Hudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie and doctors diagnosed he had Sarcoidosis, so they began to treat his lymph nodes because the disease's relationship with the lungs. Dustin was then transferred to Albany Medical Center a week later where doctors, deciding it was nuerosarcoidosis, put him in the ICU for a week where they worked on his heart and brain putting him on methotrexate and steroids. If that wasn't enough, it was found that Dustin had an infected ingrown toenail. Thankfully, doctors decided that this infection and the disease were two different occurrences but the various medications made Dustin hallucinate. It was noticed that Dustin's speech would not make sense, also saying unpleasant gestures to his family. He would not allow people to touch him and he become aggressive.

Thanksfully by mid-September, Dustin responded well to the drugs and was later transferred to New Paltz Center for Rehabilitation. It was at the September 23rd carnival at the New Paltz Center when Dustin won the 30-minute plane ride in a raffle, a flight that took place on October 21st at Kobelt Airport in Wallkill and actually lasted almost an hour. For a short while, Dustin was given the controls by pilot George Parissie, an experience of feeling the flight underneath his fingertips, he will never forget. 

"It couldn't have happened to a better person, " said Donna King, Recreation Director of the New Paltz Center. "After what he's been going through over the past year, the sun finally broke through for our Dustin."

Dustin was finally on his way back to himself. In fact, in the coming months, doctors will start easing him off the steroids and he's eager to get back to work again.

"All of the doctors and rehab therapists who worked with me were great," said Dustin. "But I will never forget winning that raffle after all I've been through. Thank you New Paltz Center for helping me fulfilling my dream."

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