It’s a horrifying injury – a child coming in contact with a lawnmower blade.
Often, a family member is operating the machinery. The resulting trauma and the blame are overwhelming. Two Indiana families know the hurt well and want to help you avoid it.
To make their point, Jack Williamson and his mother, Amanda Erk, of Muncie, use their front steps to line up eight prosthetic right feet.
“We have all of Jack’s prosthetic feet since he was four years old, so it’s been six years’ worth of feet,” Erk said.
The first prosthesis is rudimentary, a toddler size. They appear increasingly sophisticated, including the men’s size nine Jack wears know. It’s an expensive collection no parent wants.
Jack, now 10, lost all but the heel of his right foot in a lawnmower accident April 18, 2010. He was playing in the backyard. Amanda’s dad, “Papaw,” was on a riding mower.
“He engaged the blades and backed up and Jack, he tripped and fell, finding his foot under the mower,” Amanda said.
At the time, Jack was four years old.
“I remember just being on the ground and watching the ambulance pull up,” Jack said.
“It’s something you don’t think can happen to you. Even when you think you are being safe, things like this happen all the time, people just don’t realize how often it happens,” Amanda said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics report 17,000 lawnmower injuries in children and teens every year. It keeps doctors at IU Health Riley Hospital for Children on constant alert.
“I never see a ‘small’ lawnmower injury. You get the phone call saying, ‘Hey we got the lawnmower injury,’ you know it is going to be something bad,” said Riley pediatric plastic surgeon Youssef Tahiri.
It’s so bad, the Amputee Coalition reports 600 young people every year have amputations because of lawnmower injuries.
Brayden Clairday of Daleville is one of them.
Brayden was 3, when he lost his thumb in June 2015. His father, Chris, was cutting the grass for Brayden’s birthday party.
“I was running in wet grass and I tripped and I fell and my hand fell into the blade. It fell into the blades and it went ‘THING!,’ cut my hand off my thumb,” Brayden remembers.
His dad can’t forget.
“I just jumped off the mower and grabbed him, called 911. I am a firefighter EMT in our town, so I hollered at my son to get my two-way radio out of the house so I could tell the incoming ambulances what was going on,” Chris said.
In recounting what happened, Chris stops mid-sentence, and starts sobbing, unable to continue. His wife, Crystal sees the torment.
“Brayden is small enough that he is going to recover from everything. It hurts seeing my husband have the memories and the blame that he puts on himself,” Crystal said.
That overwhelming hurt is why 12 families from 10 states came together to create an awareness campaign called Limbs Matter.
Jack and his mom traveled from Muncie to Florida to be a part of it.
“It was important for us to meet other kids,” Amanda said.
Their message: Keep kids inside while mowing the lawn.
Also, take advantage of advancement in equipment.
“My dad got rid of his lawnmower that cut my thumb off and got a new one,” Brayden said.
New mowers have safety features to prevent injuries. Riding mowers have a feature that requires an operator in the seat for the engine to run. There are switches to engage the blades while going in reverse and shields to eliminate projectiles. Push mowers have levers to hold for the blades to spin.
But the most effective prevention tool is operator awareness.
“If you run over something with a lawnmower that is not regular grass, that makes a different sound. I can still remember the sound of his hand going under there,” Chris said.
Jack and his mother report seeing young children playing around or riding on mowers every day near their rural Muncie home. They worry their message isn’t being heard.
“It’s completely strange how people don’t want to listen to it, but it’s really life-saving,” Jack said.
To help other families like theirs, they created Jack’s Laughs.
They send a bag of goodies to children injured by lawnmowers. The bags are filled with toys and books so young children can stay occupied while recovering in the hospital. To date, they’ve sent 22 bags to children all across the country.
Amanda wishes the demand would stop, but just last week, they learned of two new patients. Jack and his mother quickly stuffed and sent two Jack’s Laughs bags so the families know, they aren’t hurting alone.
“It’s a split second that lasts a lifetime,” Amanda said.
Origin: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS