Ireland Nugent, then a 2-year-old happy toddler, suffered a nightmare on April 10 that no parent can even imagine, until it happens. But her family’s darkest day has since turned to happiness as the little girl, now three, took her first dance lesson this month.
Her father, 48-year-old Jerry Nugent was mowing the lawn at the family’s Palm Harbor, Florida, home that evening. As always, he cut the grass seated on a riding mower. He was mowing the front yard. As far as he knew, his daughter Ireland was playing safely in the back yard, watched by her mother, Nicole, 31.
But suddenly the little girl ran into the front yard, excited to see her father. She was yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!” when she fell, according to Nicole’s account told to a local TV station.
Nicole tried to signal her husband that the girl was behind him, but unable to hear due to the noise of the mower, he misunderstood her signal. He thought she was warning him about something in front of him. So he threw the lawnmower into reverse and backed over his daughter’s legs.
With the help of an alert neighbor, Aly Smith, who also happened to be a nurse, Ireland was rushed to Tampa General Hospital. Doctors were able to save most of her legs, but her feet and lower legs had to be amputated.
Two months later, Ireland Nugent started learning to walk again on prosthetic feet. This month, the bright-eyed little girl took her first ballet lesson.
“She’s doing so much better,” said Nicole told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s not going to be all sunshine and roses, but it’s not going to be all dreary either.”
Her recovery was helped along by the goodwill of some area businesses, including Home Depot and International Granite & Stone, who have been renovating the Nugent’s home free of charge.
The renovations are all designed to let little Ireland Nugent get around the four-bedroom home more easily. Work is expected to be finished by the end of January.
Ireland is the baby in the Nugent’s family of seven kids. She recently roller-skated, with a little help, at the 10th birthday of one older sister.
“Eight months ago, that first night in the hospital, I didn’t know where we would be or she would be or how she’d be,” Nicole Nugent told Bay 9 News. “And she’s just a normal, 3-year-old spunky girl.”
About 250,000 people are injured in lawnmower mishaps every year. About 17,000 of those are under age 19.