ToquiNotes: Dealing with Amputation, Prosthetic has Not Stopped Dalton Elliott from Counting Blessings

By Jeff Toquinto on October 17, 2020 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

No one needs to remind Dalton Elliott about the importance of family, friends, community and even strangers. For most of his life, he was aware he has had a pretty good support system in place.
 
Earlier this year, and for all the wrong reasons, the awareness became acute. On July 18, Elliott saw his life turned upside down in a way he never expected, and we will get you there shortly.
 
How he has proceeded since that day has been through a combination of the above-mentioned support system, a strong personal will, and his faith in God. Despite being a strong young man in his early 20s, Elliott needed all the support to get to where he is today.
 
It was on that July evening the 2016 Bridgeport High School graduate and three-time state football championship team member was out for some festivities on the Tygart River. The former lineman who also wrestled and played some lacrosse while at BHS was thinking it was just going to be an evening out with friends.
 
“I was up in Morgantown with Dylan (Tonkery) and Elijah (Drummond) and a few others and they wanted to go to the river and have some fun on a hot day. I had nothing planned so we went,” said Elliott. “Then it just happened, just like that. It all happened so quick.”
 
At the time, Elliott said he and Noah Drummond were getting razed because they were extremely sunburned. Because of that, he knew he needed to get under water to cool off his body.
 
Then it happened. Dalton Elliott would be struck by a boat.
 
“I was under water and heard the motor coming. I came up and looked to my left and didn’t see anything. I looked to my right and it was almost on top of me … The boat just hit me. I felt it hit my foot and when I lifted my foot it was just hanging there,” said Elliott.
 
Immediately, the support that he always had went to a new level. Noah Drummond and Austin Kendall (one of WVU’s quarterbacks) grabbed Elliott and pulled him to the dock. It was there that another BHS graduate, Hanna Stolzenfels took her medical training and put it to work.
 
“If it wasn’t for Hannah, I don’t know if I would be here,” said Elliott.
 
Taking a belt Tonkery had gotten from a nearby house, Stolzenfels put it around Elliott’s leg to create a tourniquet. The pain was intense as she did it, said Elliott, but it worked.
 
“If not for that, I would have lost so much more blood,” said Elliott. “The whole thing was like it wasn’t happening, but it was. I know I was freaking out.”
 
Then, as his friends had pointed out in this blog back in July, Dalton Elliott became calm for a moment. He asked his friends to pray with him.
 
“Something pushed me to know that I was going to be okay. I’m a firm believer in Christ so I prayed. You go from freaking out to me knowing I was in good hands the Lord was over top of me with His own hands,” said Elliott. “As the thoughts were pouring through my head, there was a part of me knowing there was a long road ahead.”
 
Elliott faced multiple surgeries on the start of the road. As a result, he ended up with an amputation below his left knee. After getting out of the hospital and recovering at home, Elliott was recently fitted for a prosthetic.
 
“I’ve had it for three weeks now and I’m very lucky to still have my knee, which helps. I’m doing well, but it hurts a lot. It is the type of pain I’ve never felt in my entire life,” he said. “I’m getting the hang of it, and my therapists are telling me I’m getting to where I need to be faster than expect. I just want to keep going with no setbacks.
 
“I’m working to be able to put pressure on the prosthetic because the tissue and the nerves are still trying to heal,” he continued. “They haven’t placed a time span on when I’ll be ready to go, but I’m still using crutches and trying to switch weight to my prosthetic. I’m actually moving pretty good.”
 
That is where the next support group comes in. Bridgeport Physical Therapy has picked up the torch, with Jack Spatafore leading the way, to get Elliott used to the prosthetic and back to as close as normal as can be expected.
 
“They are just fantastic. I’m down to going there two days a week, but they’ve helped me to do things at home that have made such a difference,” said Elliott. “I know if it wasn’t for Bridgeport Physical Therapy, I would be tight in my hips and have back spasms constantly. They’ve helped so much in so many ways.”
 
They are not alone. Dalton Elliott, if anything, wanted to let all who have been there for him know how important they are to the point his biggest concern was leaving someone out.
 
The list begins with his employer, Ryan Environmental where he has worked for more than two years as a corrosion technician. Elliott said they have bent over backwards to help with his situation.
 
Then there was the biggie. His family, friends, and faith.
 
“This did test my faith because I asked God why He would let this happen to me. As I thought about it, I know He has a great plan for me and my friends remind me of that,” said Elliott. “I even went back to church a couple of weeks ago and that helped out.
 
“I wasn’t in a dark place, but it’s really hard because no one I knew had experienced this, or at least I thought,” he continued. “Having faith, and having friends, helped a lot.”
 
One of those friends was a casual friend. And that friend has been where Elliott is at. Bridgeport’s Jerome Axton, who had a recent amputation of his leg due to cancer complications, has been a help.
 
“Jerome reached out to me a lot when I was going through it. He’s such a great guy. I met up with him a couple of weeks ago. He texts me every day,” said Elliott. “To have him there is really important.”
 
The long-time friends, the ones mentioned above and guys like Dante Bonamico, they refuse to let him get down. And that means insults and shenanigans – as always.
 
“Yeah, they still give it to me, and I give it back. They call me hoppy, but I’m not taking any offense to that because I know where they’re coming from and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” said Elliott. “I’ve known these guys forever and they make sure, even if my situation wasn’t like it is, that my head would be on my shoulders the way it should be. I try to do that for all of them as well.”
 
Elliott said his friends and family kept him supplied with plenty of food while in Morgantown at the hospital. He said Cyndi Drummond, who worked with Elliott’s surgeon and whose sons he is close friends with, was there checking on him in his room every day.
 
“Having that presence, a second mom, I just can’t thank her enough,” he said.
 
Then there is family through the standard forms. He has moved in with his mother Stephanie and her husband Brian Kirkpatrick. His father Butch Elliott has been there every step of the way as well.
 
“(Brian) has a little girl and she gave me her room to stay in, which is amazing. My family is giving me everything I need,” he said. “They don’t realize it, but they’re also giving me strength.”
 
His two sisters, Katelyn Clinedinst and Skylar Elliott, a freshman at BHS, have also been there by his side. Katelyn, who also works at Ruby, was a regular by her brother’s side that was desperately sought and deeply appreciated.
 
“They’ve been with me the whole time,” he said.
 
There are others. Danielle Wilson, Magen Ware, and Keith Richardson have made sure he gets to all his appointments by picking him up and taking him there until he can drive.
 
“It’s hard to thank someone enough when they just do whatever you need, and again, it’s appreciated more than they know,” said Elliott.
 
Elliott also wanted to give a shout out to Luke Southern, who has been another constant in support and apologized in advance for knowing he was going to leave someone out that has been there for him. Named here or not, they have helped get Elliott close to where he wants to be.
 
Today, that could be an appearance at WVU’s home game with Kansas. Elliott said Dylan Tonkery was working to get him a ticket to sit with Elijah to watch Tonkery, Noah Drummond and Bonamico against the Jayhawks.
 
“I hope to go. I’ve already been to Morgantown hanging out with the guys, playing Mario Kart because that’s normal,” he said. “I’m looking normal in jeans too. You can tell through the outline, but it just looks like a brace. Mentally, that was nice. It will be nice to just be able to move ahead and do what I want to do.”
 
He will. And he is quick to point out as he has done throughout, the support making it all possible.
 
“The people here are simply amazing. I saw the GoFundMe that was set up by Hannah and that just added to the blessing of being in this community,” said Elliott. “… If you don’t believe a small town can have such a big impact, you haven’t been to Bridgeport or this area. This has had me down, but I’m not out because I know I’m blessed.”
 
Knowing that, and being thankful for all you have in the face of adversity, allows Dalton Elliott to prove something to others. You don't need two legs to stand tall.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Dalton Elliott after a therapy session with Jack Spatafore of Bridgeport Physical Therapy, right, and Kyle Underwood, certified prosthetist and orthotist, while he's shown in the second photo letting everyone know he's still in good shape. In the third photo, Elliott, far right, is joined for some fun by friends, from left, Dante Bonamico, Elijah Drummond, and Dylan Tonkery. In the fourth photo, Elliott is shown with his father Butch, while the bottom photo is a past photo of Dalton. 


Connect Bridgeport
© 2020 Connect-Bridgeport.com