Dad will never play football again after almost losing leg to ‘innocuous’ injury

A dad was left fighting for his life and nearly had his leg amputated after a suffering an ‘innocuous’ knock during a football game. Dale Elliott, 37, is a keen amateur footballer but was left fighting for his life after the incident during a recent game.

He developed a rare life-threatening condition after kicked below the knee, even though it was described as a ‘tap’. The tiny impact led to him being rushed to A&E where he had to wait 16 hours while vomiting from the pain.

His leg became horrifically swollen and infected and the dad-of-two was stunned when doctors told he he had contracted ‘compartment syndrome’ and it might need amputating.

Dale’s wife Stephanie Elliott, 28, said: “It’s such a shock – 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’ll walk again, but he won’t ever be able to run.”

Thankfully medics were able to save his leg but Dale is still in hospital and is unable to go home for another three months, and he’s been told he will never play football or be able to drive a manual car again.

Dale, from Canvey Island, Essex, attended Southend Hospital A&E on October 31 after his leg became swollen and painful.

He reports first being sent to the minor injuries unit for seven hours, where staff were rude and told him to sit on a chair when he couldn’t due to the pain in his leg.

He then says he spent a further six hours in A and E.

The father of two boys, two and four, said: “I can’t describe the pain. It was excruciating.

“They gave me two doses of morphine which didn’t even hit the sides. That’s when I think they realised how serious it was.”

He eventually got a bed but was told he would need to wait eight hours for surgery.

Dale said: “I’m not proud of this but because of the pain I shouted at three nurses saying the painkillers were doing nothing. With this syndrome, painkillers don’t do anything until the pressure is released in the leg through surgery.”

Compartment syndrome is when bleeding and swelling in a bundle or ‘compartment’ of muscles causes pressure to build in the area. It can damage the muscles and nerves in the surrounding tissue.

Incisions are made to relieve the pressure and cause pain relief, which should be instantaneous.

Sadly, the first incisions weren’t large enough and Dale required five further surgeries and treatment for an infection in his thigh.

Surgeons also removed a dead muscle which controls the up-and-down movement of the foot.

Steph said: “He was unstable and completely unresponsive to me. He was put in the high-dependency unit and on the Tuesday (Nov 1) his foot became black due to the failed first surgery.”

On November 5, Steph then got a call from Dale. She continued: “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.”

He was then transferred to Broomfield Hospital, Essex, where they found previous surgeons had left dead muscle tissue behind.

Since then, Dale has made a miraculous recovery following three more surgeries, leaving staff shocked as they expected he would need his leg amputated.

Dale 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.

Steph, who married Dale this July after nine years together, said: “We were meant to be going on our honeymoon to Gran Canaria this Christmas.

“We’re not going now. I’m praying they will let him out for a day. I’ve asked if I can come to see him.”

Dale said: “I haven’t seen my kids in 11 days because I’m on a sterile ward for people with open wounds.

“I had to push through the pain barrier to lower my leg so I can sit in a wheelchair. Then I can go downstairs and see them this Sunday.”

He then added, close to tears: “It will be lovely but when they leave, it’s very, very hard. It’s both the best and the worst.”

His best friend, Paul Brown, has set up a GoFundMe to help the family with costs while Dale is unable to work.

Dale is the main earner as a self-employed builder and hasn’t been able to save for Christmas presents yet. Steph is off work at a special needs school due to stress.

Paul, 38, has known Dale since they were 15. He said: “I’m devastated for him. It was a tap to the leg. It didn’t even cut him. They’ve confirmed he will be disabled now as they’ve removed the muscle connected to his foot.

“The money will go towards an automatic vehicle for him and help with his mortgage payments and bills.”

Steph said her young kids are doing “alright” but that the four-year-old is now receiving school counselling, and the two-year-old “gets upset” when asking “where Daddy is”.

Southend Hospital has been contacted for comment.