Dale Elliott pictured here with his two sons, is lucky to have kept his leg after a bizarre injury during an amateur football match
When Dale Elliott was kicked during an amateur football match, the thought of losing his leg never once crossed his mind.
But that was almost the reality for the 37-year-old.
A kick just below his left knee led him to suffer from compartment syndrome, a medical emergency caused by swelling within an enclosed bundle of muscles.
Surgery to relieve him of his agony left him battling an infection and turned his foot ‘black’.
Doctors claim Mr Elliott, a builder from Canvey Island in Essex, is lucky to have escaped without needing to have his leg amputated.
His family say they’re ‘just hoping he’ll walk again’.
Although the father-of-two avoided the threat of amputation, his life-changing ordeal triggered by an amateur game at the end of October isn’t over.
He will still have to spend Christmas Day in hospital.
Mr Elliott faces three months of recovery and rehab to build up the strength to walk again. He has only just started using a wheelchair.
He has already had to spend almost all of November without seeing his sons, aged two and four, due to strict infection prevention control measures in place to protect his injuries.
Recalling his injury, Mr Elliott said: ‘I can’t describe the pain. It was excruciating.’
He went to A&E at Southend Hospital, despite his wife Stephanie saying the injury was probably just from him ‘getting older’.
A kick to his leg during the game gave Mr Elliott compartment syndrome a dangerous swelling of the internal tissues of the limb that can starve parts of the limb of oxygen
He then says he spent hours waiting to be seen and, at one point, vomited because of the sheer pain.
‘They gave me two doses of morphine which didn’t even hit the sides,’ he added.
‘That’s when I think they realised how serious it was.’
Mr Elliott eventually got a bed but was told that he would need to wait eight hours for surgery.
Doctors eventually told Mr Elliott that he had suffered from compartment syndrome and that his leg might need amputating.
Surgeons were forced to cut open a massive portion of his leg to relieve the pressure in an attempt to save the limb
Grisly pictures show the extent of the cuts required to relieve the pressure in Mr Elliott’s leg. In some cases of compartment syndrome surgeons need to keep the wound open for lengthy periods to allow the pressure to subside
Compartment syndrome is a painful and potentially serious condition caused by bleeding or swelling within an enclosed bundle of muscles – known as a muscle compartment.
It generally occurs in the legs or arms.
The pressure can constrict the supply of blood and oxygen to the rest of the limb, and damage the muscles and nerves in that area.
It is considered a medical emergency by the NHS because it can lead to permanent muscle damage if not treated quickly.
The condition is treated by a surgeon making an incision exposing the muscles to relieve the pressure inside.
This wound is left open for sometimes days at a time until the pressure subsides and surgeons close it again, during which the body can be vulnerable to infection.
While medics were able to save Mr Elliott’s leg, he required a number of surgeries after initial attempts to relieve the pressure failed.
He would eventually need a total of eight surgeries and treatment for an infection in his thigh.
One of these operations involved removing a dead muscle, that controls the up-and-down movement of the foot from his leg, it was claimed.
Mr Elliot pictured here with his football team, his wife Stephanie, recalled how guilt ridden she felt over initially dismissing the injury
The family are now hoping Mr Elliot will one day walk again, though medics have told him that running, playing football or having a bike ride with his children will likely be impossible
Mr and Mrs Elliot pictured with their children on their wedding day earlier this year. The couple have been forced to cancel their honeymoon after the accident
WHAT IS COMPARTMENT SYNDROME?
Compartment syndrome is a painful and potentially serious condition caused by bleeding or swelling within a bundle of muscles.
This causes an increase in pressure, which restricts blood flow to the area, and could damage nearby muscles and nerves.
The legs, feet, arms and hands are most commonly affected.
Acute compartment syndrome occurs suddenly after a fracture or injury.
This require immediate treatment to prevent permanent muscle damage.
Symptoms include intense pain, tenderness, tightness, tingling and numbness.
Treatment involves making an incision in the muscles to release pressure.
Chronic compartment syndrome happens gradually after repetitive exercise, such as running.
It usually passes within minutes of stopping the activity.
Symptoms include cramping pain, swelling, tingling, the affected area turning pale or cold, and difficulty moving the area.
Treatment may involve stopping the activity that is causing the problem, as well as physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Source: NHS Choices
Recalling the initial the day of the initial operation to save her husband’s leg Mrs Elliott, 28, said: ‘He was unstable and completely unresponsive to me.’
She said he was then put in a high dependency unit and claimed that ‘his foot became black due to the failed first surgery’.
Mrs Elliott also recalled how on November 5 she got a call from her husband with a potentially devastating diagnosis.
‘The surgeons had spoken to Dale and said if the infection doesn’t improve they may have to amputate the whole leg from his hip. He was trying to prepare us for it.
‘He asked if I wanted to leave him. I said I didn’t marry him because he had two arms, two legs and a head.’
Recalling her initial dismissal of the injury, she added: ‘I’m riddled with guilt for telling him it was aching from exercise now that he’s getting older.
‘I didn’t realise how it would escalate or how bad it was, or even what compartment syndrome was. It’s a really surreal experience. We keep thinking, “this is just from a kick”.
‘I don’t know how we’ve ended up where we are now. We’re just hoping he will walk again, but he won’t ever be able to run.’
He was then transferred to Broomfield Hospital where three of the follow-up surgeries took place.
Staff said they were surprised they didn’t need to amputate the leg.
Mr Elliott still doesn’t know exactly what he’ll be able to do yet once his leg recovers, but he won’t be able to play football again, drive a manual car or ‘go on a bike ride with [his] kids.’
He also won’t be coming home for Christmas, needing three more months in hospital to recover.
The couple only got married in July this year after 9 years together, have also been forced to cancel their honeymoon to Gran Canaria.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family with costs while Mr Elliott is unable to work.