When 16-year-old Elijah Eckstein received his graduated driver’s license on September 21, his mother Beth’s biggest concern was about him driving a car. Even though Elijah would now be the seventh out of her ten children to drive, there was still something that worried Beth about the thought of him being out on the road. What Beth did not expect, however, was the phone call that came in on the evening of September 22, saying that Elijah had been in an accident…on his bicycle.
Beth Eckstein was on the phone with one of her adult daughters when a call came in from an unknown number. The voice on the other end of the phone sounded something like this: “Do you have a son named Elijah Eckstein?…He’s been in an accident…He has some very serious injuries, but he’s alive.”
Elijah had been riding his bike along the Greenbelt when he was struck by a large SUV as he attempted to cross at Old Hartford Road. According to reports, one driver stopped to wave Elijah across, while another vehicle, seemingly unaware of his presence, struck him. “We believe Elijah had many guardian angels around him that evening. Given the size of the vehicle that hit him (a Ford Excursion), he could have easily died at the scene.” One such angel was off duty ER nurse, Dynah Embry. Dynah cleared the blood that was blocking Elijah’s airway and managed his c-spine until the ambulance arrived on scene. Beth says, “I hope to meet her when things settle down and express my gratitude for what she did to save my son.”
Elijah presented at the hospital with multiple injuries including an orbital fracture that extended deep into his sinus cavity, an air pocket around his brain connected with that fracture, a broken scapula, broken ribs, a bruised left lung with swelling, a broken pelvis (right side, front and back), a fractured vertebrae at T7, and a right ankle that was fractured in three places, extending into the ankle joint. The first surgery to stabilize his ankle was performed on Wednesday, September 23 and a second on Thursday, October 8. Although the second surgery proved to be a very painful one that Elijah is still recovering from, his mother says that, “All breaks have been repaired with screws and a plate to close the major break. He has a bionic ankle now.”
Elijah is like so many other 16-year-old boys that enjoy hanging out with friends, and, in this past year has become involved in health and fitness, logging many miles biking back and forth to the Healthpark this summer. When it comes to academics, he is an extremely intelligent young man, in all Advanced Placement classes, who hopes to pursue a career in law and politics. He is incredibly active in Teenage Republicans, has an affinity for Ronald Regan, and is currently a Ben Carson supporter. Elijah is also a huge Kentucky Wildcats fan. On October 8, friends, family, and followers were encouraged to wear UK and Teenage Republican apparel in support of Elijah’s surgery. Kentucky Korner even arranged to donate 10% of their apparel sales on October 7 to the family. This information was posted on the Facebook page that Beth set up to journal Elijah’s daily activities and progress, These are the days of Elijah. There is also a Gofundme page that has been established to help off-set the “astronomical” medical bills anticipated with Elijah’s care, his surgeries, and his recovery. When this story went to print, $3,757 of the $5,000 projected goal had been fulfilled.
From the very first day that the Eckstein family arrived at St. Mary’s hospital they felt an outpouring of support from the Owensboro community and beyond. Dana Goodlett, the marketing director for the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Owensboro, was familiar with the family and, upon hearing Elijah’s story, quickly contacted the Cross Pointe Chick-fil-A in Evansville. After many sleepless hours and a “whirlwind of emotions,” the Ecksteins, and the entire nursing station, were greeted with large bags of hot food, a tray of fresh fruit, and cookies. The generosity did not stop there. Knowing that one of the most prized possessions a teenager could have is his cell phone, the students and staff at Daviess County High School took up a collection, replaced Elijah’s phone, and even went a step further by adding to the $350 raised at Eastview Elementary School’s teacher dress down day, in order to pay the family’s rent for the month of November. The family’s home church, Bethabara Baptist, has been a huge support, Beth says, as well as “every school that has taught my children, and some that haven’t.” Individuals with private businesses such as Tastefully Simple and Blessed is She-Bangles, by Ashley Hicks, donated a portion of their proceeds to Elijah and his family. Legends Outfitters has agreed to donate and replace Elijah’s totaled bicycle with a brand new one. Heather Haynes also hosted a donation only Zumbathon on Saturday morning, October 31 at Puzzle Pieces in order to raise funds for Elijah’s medical expenses account established through Daviess County Teachers Federal Credit Union. Beth says that they have been beyond blessed and overwhelmed by the demonstration of love for her family through letters, gift cards for meals, care packages, meals prepared and delivered to the family while she was in Evansville caring for Elijah, parents providing transportation home for her children, money for medical bills, and the many anonymous donors of food, money, gifts and prayers, so abundant that she will never be able to thank them all.
On Wednesday, October 14, Elijah was released from St. Mary’s with a stringent outpatient care and therapy schedule. Beth, who hasn’t worked at her job as a caregiver since Elijah’s accident, will now be in charge of his full time care and recovery at home, although his dad, Scott, still maintains the title of “official leg lifter.” The upcoming challenges Elijah faces include homebound study for school, consistent pain management, daily injections, and strengthening that right leg and ankle. Although, in some ways, the recovery process has just begun, Beth chooses to focus on the positive, “Moms don’t usually get a lot of time with their 16-year-old boys— now I have him all to myself.”
If you would like to show your support for Elijah and the Eckstein family, there are several local businesses that are sponsoring upcoming fundraisers.
On November 12, Miss Daviess County has coordinated with Fetta restaurant to donate 10% of the daily food sales to Elijah’s family.
A Zumba fundraiser will be held in November in order to raise the funds to replace Elijah’s bicycle.
If you would like to make a donation toward Elijah’s medical expenses, please visit his Gofundme page at gofundme.com/x44vewyk.