Before the lawn mower accident Wednesday night, 2 ½-year-old Ireland Nugent was an active, fun-loving child who loved to run, swim and play with toys.
She still will be, her mom said Thursday.
“We can fix her legs,” Nicole Nugent said. “She will run again and walk again and be just as spunky as she was.”
Ireland lost both her legs just above the ankles on Wednesday evening when she ran out to see her father, Jerry Nugent as he was mowing the yard on a riding mower. She was calling out to him, but he couldn’t hear her over the mower. He put the mower into reverse and accidentally ran over Ireland.
In addition to losing her feet in the accident, Ireland’s left hand was punctured and her left thumb broken and she has a fractured calf. She’s at Tampa General Hospital, sedated and in serious condition.
“When I put my hand in her hand, she definitely is squeezing my hand and can realize that I’m there and listens to my voice,” Nicole Nugent said.
Ireland is connected to breathing and feeding tubes as she lies on a hospital bed.
“She’s 2, so she’s still kind of hard to even grasp what’s happening to her,” Nicole Nugent said. “Even when she wakes up, she’s not going to realize.”
Ireland has had two surgeries. The first was to cleanse the wounds, said Dennis Reid, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater where the Nugent family attends service.
A second surgery was completed Wednesday night to put a pin in her left hand. Her hand is expected to be fine and won’t be severed, Reid said.
The next surgery is scheduled for Saturday morning. Her doctors will cleanse the wounds, Reid said. The final surgery is expected on Monday to finalize and close the wounds, he said.
Nicole Nugent spoke Thursday afternoon to the media with a strong and determined voice. Her husband, Jerry Nugent, stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders. He didn’t speak. At times, his eyes watered as his wife spoke and answered questions from the media.
Nicole Nugent said she’s hurting, but it isn’t the time to focus on her pain.
“I have to be strong for my daughter,” Nicole Nugent said. “Of course, I’m sad. But she needs me more than I need to be sad right now.”
“I am questioning why that wasn’t me,” Nicole Nugent said. “Why it had to be her.”
She credits her neighbor, Ally Smith, who is a nurse, with saving her daughter. Ally Smith took the towels and put pressure on her legs.
“She saved my daughter’s life,” Nicole Nugent said.
Ally Smith’s husband, Cameron Smith, helped Jerry Nugent remove the riding lawn mower that had rolled on top of Ireland. The family bought the lawn mower recently. It was used and an older model and probably didn’t have safety upgrades, she said.
Nicole Nugent said her family is safety conscious throughout the house, with pool gates and locks to protect their children. She cautions other parents from mowing while their small children are home.
“Don’t do it,’ Nicole Nugent said. “It’s not worth it. If you’re going to do it, you need to keep all doors locked. Keep your kids inside. It’s not safe.”
Despite the accident, Ireland will succeed in life, her mother said.
“The positive side that I can look at is that her amputations are below the knees,” Nicole Nugent said. “She will continue to succeed. She will do great things in her life. This is not going to stop Ireland. Of all the children in the world, it will not stop my daughter.”
While she’s confronting the situation, her husband is struggling, she said.
“He’s not holding up as best as I am, but he’s getting there,” Nicole Nugent said.
Ireland attends Trinity Presbyterian Preschool, where her mother is the preschool director. Her father works in maintenance for Pinellas County.
Ireland is a sassy, happy child. She has a total of six siblings. Three are biological. None of the siblings saw the accident, Nicole Nugent said.
“She is just full of personality,” Nicole Nugent said. “She will tell you what she wants it when she wants it. If anybody is going to get through this, it will be her.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Reid said he saw Ireland and Nicole as they were leaving the preschool. Ireland giggled as he chased her around the hall.
“With the support of her family, with the support of their friends and of their church family and this very incredible community, Ireland is going to run those halls again,” Reid said.
The church has started a fund to help the family. To contribute, call the church at (727) 446-6210, visit its website at www.trinityclearwater.org or write to Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2001 Rainbow Drive, Clearwater, Fla., 33765.