A July 4 homecoming for White Rock resident

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By The Staff

Faith, hope and love brought Richard Elliott home July 4, to spend just a few hours with friends and family before returning to an Albuquerque rehabilitation center Friday.

Richard was on his way to work on Feb. 6 when his 2002 Honda Accord slid on black ice, resulting in a terrible car accident on the truck route. Richard sustained a plethora of injuries, from the complete loss of one eye and half of the other to having the left ankle almost amputated at the scene, resulting in a Flight for Life trip to Albuquerque.

Richard’s injuries also included head trauma, a break in the left arm with damage that actually liquefied muscle in his arm, broken ribs, and a broken left leg (both above and below the knee), plus damage to other bones, muscles, ligaments and skin.

Although a continuing infection in the ankle has made amputation of that foot an ongoing possibility, the worst injury according to his wife, Debby, was both lungs collapsing and forcing air into the body cavity.

Richard has been continually at hospitals in Albuquerque since the accident. His most recent stay has been at the Health South rehabilitation facility. He received a few hours of “freedom” July 4 to visit family and friends at the White Rock LDS parade and carnival.

He then reported “back to duty,” as it were, where he was expected to remain in six weeks of rehabilitation before returning home. The injuries will require at least three hours of therapy a day there, but have often received much more.

Good news followed the Elliott’s on their Fourth foray as they learned Rich would be home sooner than expected from rehab. He has been approved to return home later this week with the assistance from the great staff of Visiting Nurses.

The five-month hospital stint with rising gas prices and kids at home would be no small feat for any wife, but teachers are a special breed. Debby, a teacher at Chamisa Elementary School, was able to job-share her position with her daughter, Wendy. Debby kept in touch with students and tracked their progress with Wendy at the helm.

Wendy was home December through April from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Debby also stayed in touch with friends through an online journal reporting on Rich’s health status. Much of the hard work for Rich is still ahead with his upcoming rehabilitation.

“Rich would love to hear from people,“ Debby said. “The prayers that have been given for Richard are overwhelming.”

Family, friends, members of the White Rock Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Chamisa Elementary School students pitched in with pennies, prayers and performances to help the family out through their ordeal. The help ranged from dinners, yard work and financial assistance to hugs, homework help and house projects in preparation for their homecoming.

At Chamisa, student council members led a drive to collect spare change for the family at Chamisa’s 40th birthday event, raising $220. The coins were placed into the Richard Elliott Emergency Fund, at Los Alamos National Bank, set up by Chamisa Administrative Assistant Kris Sandford.

“I don’t know how people can go through this without the help and support of people. Sometimes a hug is the greatest gift of all,” Debby said.