GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A High Point restaurant owner is just days away from opening up a new restaurant after a horrific car crash left him seriously injured and unable to cook.
“Every time I turned and look at the sign, I know what it took, personally, to get there,” Wilkie Dawkins explained as he sat outside Wilks Skillet, his new establishment.
It sits on the third floor in the food court of the Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro.
The bright red neon lights at the top are a sight he never thought he’d see again.
On September 29, 2017, Wilkie Dawkins, a father of three, had begun to drift between the thin line between life and death.
His small, white car had just driven head-on into an 18-wheeler that unexpectedly turned in front of him.
His body had been crushed by the twisted metal that surrounded the driver's side of the car.
“Doctor’s told me that nobody lives through that,” Dawkins said two years later.
His right leg was spared when doctors decided it didn’t need to be amputated, while staples held his split face open.
“I don’t remember anything," Dawkins said.
Before the accident, he had just picked up seafood to prepare for Seafood Friday’s, something he celebrated every week at his restaurant The Kingdom in High Point.
He was on his way back to work when it happened.
He spent the next 14 days in a coma and another 41 days in the hospital.
During that time, his restaurant started to fail.
“Customers could just tell that something was off . . . because I wasn’t in the kitchen,” Dawkins said.
After weeks of declining sales and weeks of Dawkins not being able to work, he closed The Kingdom’s doors.
“I just had to sit back and face it. You have lost everything. It was a hard pill to swallow," Dawkins said.
After he closed his restaurant, he realized that he needed to start cooking again.
The damage to his body left him with large gaps in his ability to cook.
“I couldn’t remember which ingredients I used for this and which ingredients for that . . . I couldn’t," Dawkins said.
His family retaught him how to do everything in order to help him get back to the place he wanted to be: the kitchen.
“I said to God, 'you helped me build this and you snatched it away from me' . . . he said 'I set up back to set you up,'" Dawkins said.
Wilks Skillet is set to open Friday.