When he wasn't on a construction site, chances were good you could find Nick Elliott watching or playing hockey. Two years ago, however, Nick thought his playing days were over after a serious injury. "I suffered a total de-gloving of my legs," he tells us. "My right leg was amputated immediately after the accident."
After spending the next year in and out of Chicago-area hospitals, Nick came to Mayo Clinic in search of a urological procedure he says he wasn't able to get back home. At Mayo, Nick found help with that, and much more. After his procedure, Nick was referred to Mayo's Plastic Surgery Department because of a skin issues he had as a result of his injury.
There Nick met plastic surgeon Brian Carlsen, M.D. "Three weeks later, I had my first skin graft with Dr. Carlsen," he says, "and that pretty much took care of everything on my legs." Then Nick found himself faced with another life-altering decision. "I still had my left leg, but my ankle was just kind of hanging down," he says. "It didn't have much movement and had a lot of swelling, so keeping it wasn't really a viable option long-term. So I elected to have it amputated as well."
Despite losing both of his legs, Nick never lost his love of hockey. When his physical therapist, Meegan Van Straaten, found that out, she introduced him to a friend who was putting together a sled hockey team for the Rochester Mustangs. "She knew I was a big hockey fan, so she told me about one of their practices," Nick says. "I went, and it was a blast. I met a lot of new people who also love hockey and got to hear their stories as well."
For Nick, being a part of the team -- and its "Try Sled Hockey Day" on Feb. 21 -- holds special meaning. " I didn't know if I'd ever be able to go back out on the ice," he says. "The first time I got on the sled and went on the ice, I got chills."
Nick tells us he also got chills inside the Sports Medicine Center in Rochester a couple of days before the event when he was given a chance to skate standing up for the first time since his accident. It was all thanks, he says, to a special harness, a treadmill with synthetic ice, and a lot of support from his care team. "At first it was difficult, because I was just trying to remember how to skate," he says. "But it got easier from there. It was a great feeling."
It's the kind of feeling Nick's now hoping to give to others. "Before coming to Mayo, I never had any intention of going to medical school," he says. "But after seeing what everybody here does for patients … I've decided that I want to be a part of that myself someday."
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