The 2-year-old's feet were amputated in a riding lawn mower accident in early April.
TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. - Less than three months after a toddler lost both her feet to a lawnmower accident, Ireland Nugent was cleared Friday to wear her prosthetic feet full time.
Her family is thrilled for the 2½-year-old's next step.
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"This is a day we've been waiting for when we knew she could wear her legs full time and start resuming as much of a normal life as possible," said her mom, Nicole Nugent.
Ireland's life changed April 10 as her father, Jeremiah Nugent, finished cutting grass on his riding lawn mower in the seaside suburb of Palm Harbor, Fla., about 25 miles north of St. Petersburg. He was about to park the mower in the garage when he misunderstood his wife's frantic motions.
She was trying to tell him that Ireland had run behind the mower. He thought Nicole Nugent was trying to keep him from running over something, so he put the mower in reverse and backed up, running over his daughter. He immediately turned off the mower, but it continued to roll down the driveway, trapping Ireland.
Her feet were severed at the ankle. Her left hand also was injured and is healing.
"Ireland's doing great," said Dr. Daniel Chan at Florida Orthopaedic Institute here. "You can just see it in her spirits, and clinically, her legs look awesome. There isn't an issue. Now it's just the therapy part, getting her used to her prosthetics and starting to walk."
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A little less than three weeks ago, Ireland took her first steps with her new legs, decorated with Minnie Mouse and Dora the Explorer. On Friday, she impressed doctors as she stepped on a stool without assistance.
Ireland's big sister, Gigi, likes to help her sister put on her prostheses though she said she was scared at first.
"Give me your leg! Give me your leg, baby!" Gigi said during Friday's doctor appointment.
"I want to do it," Ireland said.
The Nugents have created a website to support Ireland and keep people updated on her progress through their Facebook page.
"This is a day we've been waiting for when we knew she could wear her legs full time and start resuming as much of a normal life as possible."
- Nicole Nugent, Ireland's mom
The family measures Ireland's milestones such as Friday's approval to wear her prosthetic feet full time and June 17 when she took her first steps on the prostheses. In between Ireland had been allowed to wear her new feet a half hour to an hour at a time.
They also measure times of the year, like Independence Day, the first big holiday for the family since the lawnmower accident.
"I often wonder when that will stop for us," Nicole Nugent said. "This is our first 4th of July. We have our first Christmas and Thanksgiving, but then as time goes by I think it'll just be second nature to us."
Lawn mowers injured about two dozen children age 10 and younger in 2011, the most recent data available, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which looks at emergency room data. The injuries then included a 2-year-old boy whose toe was amputated.
On Friday, Ireland wore a dress sent to her by a fan on her Facebook page. Her family knows her journey to healing has been full of community support, and they're paying it forward.
On June 6, 5-year-old Elizabeth "Ella Rose" Wanaka was injured in a riding lawn mower accident in Clarksville, Tenn. Nicole Nugent said she has been talking with Ella's mother and hopes to offer guidance since Ella's accident happened about two months after Ireland's.
Next week, Ireland and her family will head to Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in Orlando, where Ireland received her prostheses, to get new carbon fiber feet that will be lighter and make it easier for Ireland to walk. As Ireland grows, she will need new prosthetic feet to grow with her.