After a seven month layoff spent recovering from a near fatal injury, DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Austin Eldridge is back on the job.
Eldridge came back to the office on Wednesday and was assigned light duty and some desk work for now as he continues his road to recovery.
He spoke to Tim Van Horn on Wake Up Memphis on the Mighty 990 AM radio program, and said he didn’t think the day would ever come when he would be back in uniform.
“When this first happened, I didn’t even know if I would ever walk again, much less be able to work again,” Eldridge said. “I am extremely blessed. God is good. Without him, I certainly wouldn’t be here.”
Eldridge was assisting a motorist change a flat tire near Laughter Road on I-269 in February when he was struck by a drunk driver. He was pinned between two vehicles and had to be airlifted from the scene to a Memphis area hospital.
Eldridge underwent multiple surgeries and had his left leg amputated above the knee and spent a month in the hospital recovering before being able to return home, where he continues to undergo physical therapy and improve.
Eldridge said it was an amazing feeling to be out of a hospital bed and back to work and seeing all of his co-workers.
“They have been so awesome to me,” Eldridge said. “And to get back there and work with them and feel like it is a normal day for the first time in seven month, was incredible.”
Eldridge said it has been a long journey to get to where he is today, and credits his family, his Blue family, church family, and the tremendous outpouring of community support for pulling him through and giving him strength.
Several businesses and community groups held fundraisers and a GoFundMe Page was set up which helped raised thousands of dollars to help pay for his medical expenses.
“My support system from all sides has just been overwhelming,” Eldridge said. “There is no doubt about it. The amount of support they have given me and the amount of things they have done for me and my family has been overwhelming. I was breaking down in tears the first time in the hospital when I saw all the support from the community. The fact that it is still ongoing and just kind of coming back and seeing the joy people have who have been following me on this journey … has shown a lot about the people I am around that they really do care.”
DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Tish Clark said the department was honored, thrilled, and humbled to have Eldridge back.
“We are so happy he is back,” Clark said. “Honestly, we never thought we would see this day. We always hoped we would. It is just such a blessing and a miracle.”
Clark said Eldridge has every intention of returning to patrol once he is cleared by his doctors.
“He is hoping by the end of the year that he will know something,” Clark said. “And he is getting there. He is working hard. His physical therapist has told me personally that they have never seen anybody fight so hard like he did to get home and get better and to be able to do all of the normal things that all of us take for granted.”
Eldridge is also a new father to a three month-old son.
“He made a joke the other day that his son will be walking better than he will,” Clark said. “I thought that was cute.”
Eldridge has also used his time off to get back into radio broadcasting. He’s been doing play-by-play for the high school football game of the week with Southaven radio station 95.3 The Rebel. Eldridge at one time helped stream broadcasts of DeSoto Central High School athletics for WHBQ before entering law enforcement.
“I am actually back in the broadcasting booth a little bit this year doing Friday night high school football, which has been awesome,” Eldridge said. “It has been a lot of fun.”
Eldridge said he has been humbled by his whole experience, and while he never wanted to be in the news, he’s glad his story has helped inspire others.
“I never wanted to be a celebrity so-to-speak,” Eldridge said. “But I am very glad to have been able to help people with a positive attitude and to see how it has impacted people and how they have impacted me. It has been an absolutely incredible journey.”