CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Lucia Elliott makes four calls a day to On With Life, a brain injury rehabilitation center in Ankeny.
She calls to check in on her son, Bruce Elliott.
Before an accident on May 14 that left him in a coma, Bruce Elliott was an energetic, fun-loving, 19 year-old graduate of Cedar Falls High School.
“If I could turn back time and bring him home I would,” said Lucia Elliott.
It was a Monday night; Bruce Elliott had just finished his shift at the Wild Hare, where he works as a cook, when he and his friends met at Lookout Park. The four began climbing an oak tree by the river, and when Bruce Elliot continued to climb despite protests from his friends, a branch snapped beneath him and he fell, hitting branches on the way down.
After muttering a few inaudible words, Bruce Elliot dipped into unconsciousness; he remains in a coma.
“I remember answering the phone at 3 a.m., thinking no good could come of this,” Lucia Elliott said. “And they told me that he had fallen and was unconscious, and after having to redirect the ambulance to Covenant (Medical Center) due to the severity of his condition, I knew this wasn’t something that would blow over.”
His brain was swollen and bleeding, and his spleen had ruptured. Over the next two days, doctors and neurologists worked on stabilizing Bruce, monitoring brain function and keeping his blood pressure down to prevent seizures.
Bruce’s father, Jason Elliott, drove down from his job in Minneapolis on May 15, the morning after the accident. One day later, the family was given the news they feared most.
“They told us on Wednesday that they didn’t know when (Bruce) would wake up,” Jason Elliott said. “They would continue to make sure he was comfortable and he remained on the ventilator.”
It has been seven weeks since Bruce Elliott’s accident, since then he has been transferred to On With Life, a treatment center that specializes in brain injuries and provides the necessary care and physical therapy Bruce needs to recover.
All family and friends can do now is wait. Known by his friends as “Jooce,” for his high energy and enthusiasm, Bruce Elliott has been known for his loyalty, and now his friends and co-workers are returning the favour. Ivan Weiland, owner of the Wild Hare and the Screaming Eagle, has started a fundraising campaign for his employee, and efforts are quickly turning into a community affair.
Currently, wristbands that read, “Stay Strong Jooce Man,” are on sale at the Wild Hare and Buzz’s Bar, with proceeds going directly to a bank account set up for Bruce Elliott.
The wristbands, organized by Bruce Elliott’s friend Chris Boemont sell for $5 a piece.
The money in the account will be used to help pay for ongoing medical expenses and basic living once Elliott recovers. Weiland also holds a bake sale at the Screaming Eagle every Thursday, with profits also going into Elliot’s account.
“We just want to raise awareness towards Bruce’s story and to support him in any way we can,” Weiland said. “Here is a young man who will have no real income after he comes out, so it’s a no-brainer that he be supported the way he has.”
Fundraising efforts will culminate on Aug.18, with a handful of events, including a four-shot golf tournament held at Fox Ridge Golf Course in Dike. Buy-in for the tournament will be $200 per team with flag sponsorships available for $75, and a car donated by Witham Auto Centers will be up for grabs during the benefit’s hole-in-one contest.
Supertickets also are available for a chance to win one of two trips, plus spending cash and a shot at a $100,000 hole-in-one.
A poker run is being planned for the same day as an alternative for those who wish to support Elliott but don’t golf. Weiland also is in the midst of organizing a live silent auction and volleyball tournament at the Wild Hare; he said he is determined to put together as many functions for his employee as possible.
For Jason Elliott, the love sent out from each individual helps him rest assured that his son is in good hands. ”I am so thankful for all this support,” Jason Elliott said. “I am way up in the (Twin) Cities, so there is no way I can even see him every day. I would love to but I can’t. So, it is good to know that he has a community there to back him up and take care of him like this.”
Lucia Elliott said every kind word of support and every dollar given have made all the difference over the past seven weeks.
“It’s been a really tough couple weeks,” Lucia Elliott said. “I just can’t believe what the community has done for us, all out of pocket and without a second’s hesitation. I am speechless; I wish I could thank each and every person involved. It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
For more information on Bruce Elliott’s story and fundraising, visit www.getwellbruce.com.
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