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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Pinellas tot hurt in mower accident goes home

TAMPA - “She's here,” cried a group of Ireland Nugent's siblings and neighborhood playmates.

Almost a month after her legs were severed in a lawnmower accident outside her family's suburban Palm Harbor home, the 2-year-old arrived home Saturday.

Family, neighbors and news media crowded around as a minivan pulled into the driveway and came to a stop. Then Ireland's father, Jerry Nugent, hoisted his little girl, dressed in a yellow princess dress, to take her inside the house.

She was asleep.

When Ireland squinted, looking over her father's shoulder, her first vision of home was smiling people and cameras.

A few moments later, her parents, four sisters, two brothers, and other friends and family gathered outside on the front lawn.

Ireland was shy amid the fanfare, clinging to her mother, Nicole. After seven surgeries at Tampa General Hospital, the toddler took well to having her bandages changed Saturday morning, and her mother looked forward to coming weeks when her daughter would be fitted with prosthetic legs.

“I can't wait to see her back up and running and happy and playing again,” Nicole Nugent said.

But on Saturday, the Nugent family had other priorities.

“I think we've got some serious snuggle time happening tonight,” Ireland's mother said.

She credited neighbors with stepping in to help moments after the April 11 accident.

Jerry Nugent was driving a riding lawn mower up the family's driveway on Hollow Ridge Road. Ireland slipped out of a backyard enclosure and ran behind him, witnesses said. Nicole Nugent motioned for her husband to stop, but he misinterpreted and backed up the mower, running over the child.

The accident severed both Ireland's legs below the knee, also cutting her hand and breaking her thumb.

Since then, family members have flown in from out of town, community members organized fundraisers and delivered food, and neighbors prepared a welcome home party.

Former professional wrestler Steve Chamberland also attended the homecoming, reiterating his pledge to use his charity, 50 Legs, to make sure Ireland gets top-of-the-line prosthetics.

“She loves princesses and in fact when we asked her what kind of legs she wanted, she told us over and over again she wants princess legs,” Nicole Nugent said.

“Anything she wants, she gets,” Chamberland said.

Ireland has a long road ahead of follow-ups and physical therapy.

Her family has added a wheelchair ramp to the house and plans other modifications to help her get around more easily.

Chamberland said he has arranged for Ireland to get prosthetics from a specialist in Orlando in three to four weeks.

Her neighborhood playmates are eager for that day to arrive.

The Nugents' next-door neighbor, Aly Cameron, said the accident doesn't appear to have affected Ireland's spirit and her daughters look forward to play dates.

“She just seems like her regular, crazy self. As soon as she gets her legs, she's going to be up running around,” Cameron said.

“We're just so thankful she's here with us and doing good.”

Jerry Nugent said it would be difficult in some ways to return home after the traumatic accident. The outpouring of community support, though, has helped his family enormously, he said.

“I love this community,” he said. “I can definitely see us living here a long, long time.”

The Nugent family will need support for many years to help pay for Ireland's prosthetics as she grows up, said neighbor Ruth Lucidi.

Several charity events are in the works in and around Palm Harbor in the coming weeks and months. There's also a trust fund for her family at Wells Fargo. Donations can be made to the “Ireland Donation Fund.”

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