On the road to recovery

Webster City’s Taylor Elliott is still recuperating from a traffic accident in February. Her truck flipped and rolled when she hit a patch of black ice near Highview. But with support from family and friends, she’s maintained a positive outlook through it all.

Even in the hospital, Taylor Elliott said she was able to maintain a positive outlook about her recovery. She’s recuperating at home and is looking forward to the time can get out of her wheelchair to begin physical therapy.

An encounter with a patch of black ice on a cold, wintry February morning proved to be life-changing for a young Webster City woman.

Taylor Elliott, 21, the daughter of Greg Elliott and Aleisha Ridenour, has been around cars for most of her life. Part of the Elliott racing family, she’s spent time under the hood of race cars, in the pits at race tracks across the country, and, in recent years, behind the wheel of her own B-modified race car.

But on Feb. 13, a patch of black ice near Highview caused her truck to flip and roll, ejecting the young experienced driver.

Elliott had given her father a ride to Humboldt that day to pick up a truck that was being repaired. As she followed him back to Webster City, his was the first vehicle to encounter the ice. Because his truck was low to the ground and heavy, he was able to keep it on the road.

He tappped his brakes to warn his daughter.

Taylor Elliott smiles in the above photo from a previous race season. She won’t be racing in 2019 as she recuperates from injuries sustained in an accident last month. But she plans to be back on the track in 2020.

But it was too late.

In his rearview mirror, he saw her truck flip and roll.

“I hit the black ice and my truck kind of turned on me,” Taylor Elliott said. “It felt like I was moving in slow motion because I had time to take my hands off the steering wheel and pull my feet back.”

She remembers telling herself that the accident was going to happen, to relax and just “go with it.”

As her vehicle caught some dry pavement the weight of her truck, with its big tires, six-inch lift and heavy motor, caused it to roll.

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship Taylor Elliott is all smiles today as she continues her recovery from a February auto accident. She credits her dad, Greg Elliott, right, and other family members and friends for helping her maintain a positive attitude during her recuperation.

“I remember rolling once and watching the driver’s side window and mirror crush,” she said.

She thinks she blocked the rest out, though she says she never was lost consciousness.

When it was over, she found herself outside on the ground. She has no memory of how she was ejected from the truck, but suspects it might have been through the sunroof. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

Taylor Elliott was lying face down in the snow.

She couldn’t get up, but she began to access her injuries. She could move her arms and her neck. Her back was uninjured and she could move her feet.

Taylor Elliott drives her T16 race car in a previous race season. She’s taking off the 2019 season as she recovers from a traffic accident in which she sustained a broken pelvis and internal bleeding. She plans to return to the track in 2020.

Greg Elliott gets emotional as he talks about that day.

“You feel helpless. You really can’t do anything,” he said. “All I could do was get turned around and see what actually happened.”

The roads were semi-cleared of snow that day, according to the father, but there were those slick spots.

“You know, shoulda, coulda, woulda — we coulda gone another way, coulda waited longer, coulda done things differently,” he said. “But there’s slick spots you don’t see. Things happen. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, she wasn’t speeding or swerving. There’s nothing she could have done to prevent it.”

As soon as he saw the truck roll, Greg Elliott found a place to turn around and raced back to his daughter. He went to the truck to find her, but she wasn’t in the truck.

“I was yelling to him and I told him I was OK,” she said. “By then my leg hurt.”

Another driver came upon the scene and got out to help. It was Jordan Hartnett, a volunteer firefighter Taylor knew from school.

“Right away, got on the phone with 911,” she said.

Others stopped as well, some bringing blankets, pillows or coats to help keep her warm until the ambulance arrived. Her father gave her his coat and shirt to keep her face out of the snow,

The EMTs arrived and placed a brace on her neck, rolled her over and put her on a gurney for the trip to Van Diest Medical Center, in Webster City. Once stabilized, she was taken by air ambulance to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines.

She had internal bleeding and was rushed into surgery when she arrived at Mercy. She also had a fractured pelvis.

“They told us that from the CAT scan that my pelvis had actually split from my tailbone,” she said. “And in the front, my pelvis was broken too.”

The following day, Taylor Elliott underwent surgery to repair her pelvis. They put in a rod from side-to-side, a plate and pins in front and a stabilization bar on the outside of her body. The bar was to prevent any movement of her pelvis, and to make sure it healed in the correct position.

She was in the intensive care unit for two days.

A week later, she went home by ambulance.

Her family has set up the lower level of their home to accommodate her limited mobility. She has a cozy space with a hospital bed, couch for visitors, a large television and a kitchenette. They’re working on creating an accessible shower.

When word of her accident and surgery got out, friends and family sent flowers, food, teddy bears, and called and texted with well wishes and support.

“It was just crazy. You know you have friends, but you just never realize until something like this happens just how much people care. It’s an overwhelming feeling,” she said.

“But at the same time, no matter what, people treated me the same as always. It helped me feel normal. That’s helped me get through this. We laugh and joke.”

There are hard days too.

“You know when you’re independent and used to doing things for yourself, and now you have to rely on other people to do things for you? It’s hard and I’ve had a couple meltdowns.”

She credits her dad for being her rock. He stayed with her in the hospital and doesn’t stray far from his daughter as she recuperates.

“I stayed there the whole time she was in the hospital, and now she’s here with me,” he said. “It’s just what dads do.”

The Elliotts also praise the ambulance crew, the local hospital and Mercy for the care she’s received.

“Everyone was just wonderful. From the EMTs, the nurses and doctors at Van Diest Medical, and the doctors and nurses at Mercy,” Greg Elliott said. “Everyone was just awesome. They don’t get enough credit.”

Taylor Elliott will be in a wheelchair for the next two months.

“I can’t put any weight on my legs.”

She’s learned to get in and out of bed and into her wheelchair on her own. But she needs help lifting her legs onto the bed.

Though she had no cuts or lacerations, she had some road rash and bruising. Her left leg took the brunt of her ejection from the vehicle and landing along the road.

“It’s still kind of sore and doesn’t quite function yet as it should,” she said. “They thought at first I might have broken my femur. But it wasn’t. Through therapy they’ve been helping me get more mobility into my legs.”

Once she gets the OK, she hopes to be able to move right into physical therapy to help her begin to walk again.

“They’re going to show her the right way to walk so her legs will do what they’re supposed to and not cause pain,” her father said.

Taylor Elliott graduated from Webster City High School in 2016 and has been attending Des Moines Area Community College to study graphic design. She also worked at Harris Racing in Boone. But college and work have been put on hold during her recovery.

She also won’t be getting behind the wheel of her race car this year. She’s taking the season off, but plans to be back on the track in 2020.

In the meantime, she said they won’t be able to keep her out of the pits to cheer on friends and family.

Her racing family across the U.S. has responded with support, offers of help and words of encouragement.

“I’ve heard from my friends, my racing family, from all over the country and even in Canada,” she said.

“The racing community is really a family. They’re always there when something like this happens,” her father said. “We’ve been blessed by the number of people who have reached out.”

“There are so many people to thank all through this,” he said. “I just hope they know how much we appreciate what they’ve done for us and the support they’ve offered.”