EL DORADO, Ark. (05/22/20) — An El Dorado football coach is recovering from life threatening burn injuries but he’s not going through this hardship alone.
De’Anthony Curtis is currently the running back coach for the Wildcats but his football background goes well beyond the mid-sized town of El Dorado.
He was a standout player with the Camden Fairview Cardinals, played four seasons with the Arkansas Razorbacks and signed as rookie free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, playing in three preseason games.
He’s persevered through the best and rough times of his career but he hasn’t seen anything quite like what he’s going through right now.
“He’s working his hands. He’s getting up and he’s walking,” his wife, Ashlee Curtis said. “It’s amazing because of what happened to him. The story could be going way different than what it actually is.”
According to Curtis, her husband was traveling to El Dorado from picking up a portable fire pit from his dad in Camden on May 9, the day after his 30th birthday.
The pit along with a Gatorade cooler was in the bed of his truck. As he was coming into town, he noticed his cooler was on fire. He pulled over and tried to get it out of his truck and it exploded on him.
“It burned his face, his arm, shoulder all the way down to his leg,” she said. The right side of his body is worse than the left side is.”
He was taken to the Medical Center of South Arkansas for treatment. The following day he had an appointment with the burn clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
They were expecting the appointment to be brief where doctors would put bandages on him and show Curtis how to do wound care.
The doctors told the family they had to put him sleep to do all of that and they ended up having to stay overnight. The process went well and they were supposed to go home the next day.
“Everything just started going down hill after that,” Curtis said. “He ended having a mild heart attack which was caused by his blood pressure being elevated which was caused by the pain.”
He was then taken to UAMS for the night and eventually was moved back to the children’s hospital since they were able to control the pain.
While Coach Curtis was recovering in the hospital, the El Doorado community was advocating on his behalf.
Sarah Hatley created a go fund me page on May 14. By the next day, the account had raised more than $13,000.
To date, over 360 people have raised about $24,000.
Hatley never expected for it to gain as much attention as it did. She knew she wanted to help the Curtis family. They have given so much to her, her children and others in the community.
Coach Curtis taught Hatley’s daughter in 7th grade and he also coached her son in football. His wife, Ashlee, also taught Hatley’s daughter but when she was in the 8th grade.
“We got to know them from all of that,” she said. “Also, they used to sit behind us at the football games and their children took my heart. At half time, the players would come out on the field and the girls would yell out ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,’ until he would wave at them.”
Coach Curtis was utterly surprised when his wife showed him how much money was raised to assist them with the unexpected tragedy, asking “why me”?
Although he couldn’t understand why the community was supporting him so much, it was clear as day to others.
“They’re just kind and loving people that give fully of themselves to their students and to their players,” Hatley said. “They’re just infectious people.”
Curtis was so amazed and humbled by the amount of kindness shown to her and her family. Even her daughters have been showered with love from their friends and school teachers.
The oldest daughter has been receiving letters from her classmates. The daycare their youngest daughter is enrolled in has constantly been checking in on them.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t really know how to say thank you because you don’t feel that thank you is enough,” Curtis said. “We are extremely grateful. We’re going to have quite a bit of bills coming up and that will help tremendously.”
Coach Curtis has a long but promising future ahead of him. He is now home and currently going through physical therapy.
“It’s just going to be a time thing. It’s going to take sometime to get back to where he was and he is expected to make a full recovery so there’s no need for anyone to worry about that,” Curtis said.” Coach Curtis will be out on the sidelines if we’re able to play sports again.”
Curtis said although her husband has been through so much trauma he’s still more concerned about his students. He’s spoken with some of them just to let them know that he’s okay.
Her husband may look like a different man, but Curtis said he will always have the same heart.
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