On Monday, Ireland Nugent took her first step in 9 weeks. But it was a giant step forward for the entire Nugent family.
"Really 9 weeks ago she was in a coma in the hospital, sleeping, and now she's a vibrant 2-and-a-half year old kid running around like nothing ever happened,” said mom Nicole Nugent.
The Nugents, from the Tampa area, have struggled to heal and recover since April 10 when Ireland's father, Jerry Nugent, accidentally backed over his 2-year-old daughter with his riding lawn mower.
"I can tell you from the accident I was living second to second, and then minute to minute, and then hour to hour. I'm still in a day to day thing, but I'm moving a little further along than I was then,” said dad Jerry Nugent. “Someone asked me where God was when all this was happening, and then I said he was hanging on to her until I could get a hold of her. And that's the truth. Because it was really close to being the other way. She could have died that day and she didn't."
Ireland has since recovered to the point that she is ready to walk again.
The Orlando Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates custom-built her plastic sockets, metal stems, and wooden feet, agreeing to cover any cost not reimbursed by insurance.
Additionally, Steve Chamberland, who founded the Clearwater-based charity “50 Legs in 50 Days” after losing his own leg in a motorcycle accident, has agreed to cover the cost of prosthetics for Ireland as she gets older – for the rest of her life. Chamberland estimated that could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"This is the good day, she gets to walk today. All the stuff she's been through in the past 2-and-a-half months, now she gets to walk,” said Chamberland.
Once the fitting and adjusting was complete, Ireland was helped onto her feet, grabbed onto a child-sized set of parallel bars, and took one step. And then another. And then another. And then her family cheered, applauded, and cried.
Fighting tears, Jerry Nugent said, "I'm just speechless. I'm so proud right now."
"I was so worried what life was going to be for her. I almost felt like life was over for her, and it's not,” said Nicole Nugent. "She really is going to be OK. She really is going to have a great life."
On Tuesday Ireland will receive her permanent new limbs and take them home. But remember – this is just a first step. As she grows, every 3-4 months Ireland will return to the Orlando Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates to be fitted for a bigger pair of prostheses.