Pinellas toddler who lost feet 'a fighter'
Optimism gushed from the parents of a 2-year-old Palm Harbor girl who underwent four hours of surgery Monday after losing her feet last week in a lawnmower accident. “She's a fighter,” said Ireland Nugent's mother, Nicole, at a news conference at Tampa General Hospital after the toddler came out of surgery Monday afternoon. “She's feisty. If she wants to do something, she'll do it. She's doing that here. Fighting. Fighting. Fighting.” The cherubic little girl remained sedated and probably won't regain consciousness until Tuesday. That was a letdown for her parents, who wanted to talk to her, hug her and tell her they loved her. “That was a disappointment,” Nicole Nugent said. The horrific accident and plight of the little girl has drawn national attention. A fund established to help offset the medical costs, which could pile up for years with rehabilitation and prosthetics, swelled to about $20,000, said the Rev. Dennis Reid, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church. He is acting as a spokesman for the family. Her surgery Monday is the last one before she can begin recovery and get fitted for prosthetic legs below her knees, Reid said. Parts of her legs below the calf were amputated, and skin from her thighs was grafted to her injuries, he said. Friends and members of the church crowded into the waiting room to offer support. “It's been a long day for the family,” he said. “But the surgery was very successful.” Nicole Nugent said she was surprised by the outpouring of support. “It's beyond anything I could have imagined,” she said. “We're not famous, we're just people. The world really isn't as bad as you think it is.” Former professional wrestler Steve Chamberland, a Largo fitness trainer who runs 50 Legs, a charity that provides state-of-the-art prosthetics to children, has pledged to help, saying he hopes the family doesn't pay anything out of pocket for prosthetics or rehabilitation. “This family has become a part of my family,” he said. A golf tournament organized by 50 Legs is slated for April 27 at Tarpon Woods Golf Club in Palm Harbor. The family has insurance but still will incur medical expenses due to the hospital stay and years of care in the future. There are several places to make donations. The Pinellas Federal Credit Union has established a fund in Ireland's name, and donations can be made at www.pinellasfcu.org or by calling (727) 586-4422 during business hours. Trinity Presbyterian Church also is taking donations at www.trinityclearwater.com. The surgery was a big step on the road to recovery for the little girl. “I can't wait to love and hold her,” said her father, Jerry, his voice giving way to emotion, “and tell her it's going to be OK.”