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Mower victim Ireland Nugent celebrates third birthday with party

PALM HARBOR

It was a princess birthday party.

Ariel and Cinderella figurines smiled next to a castle atop a cake. Girls touted paper crowns on their heads.

But during dress up, as the little girls picked costumes from a rack and twirled in their flowing tulle dresses, Ireland Nugent, the birthday girl, squirmed out of her light blue gown.

"I want to be Spider-Man!" she screeched.

Moments later, Ireland got her wish. Now dressed in a Spider-Man suit too big for her, she sat on the floor with all the princesses and decorated her paper crown with stickers.

On Sunday, the Nugent family and dozens of loved ones celebrated Ireland's third birthday. For her parents, Nicole and Jerry Nugent, it was much more than a party.

"It's just not her birthday to us, it's just a celebration of being here," Nicole said. "I think this is a day we will never forget."

On April 11, Ireland lost her lower legs and feet when her father accidentally backed over her on his riding lawn mower in the driveway of the family's Palm Harbor home.

A few weeks later, she was released from the hospital. In June, she began walking on prostheses. Then came more doctor's visits and physical therapy sessions.

But on Sunday, for at least a few hours, the focus was on Ireland's birthday.

"It's another moment we've been waiting for," Jerry Nugent said. "It's so great to be here with her celebrating her birthday since the accident."

Ireland's next milestone: more surgery.

On Thursday, she will undergo surgery at Tampa General Hospital to shave down the bone of her right leg. Doctors have told the Nugents their daughter could face this kind of surgery as she continues to grow.

Five days after the procedure, Ireland will turn 3.

She doesn't wear her prostheses as often because it causes her discomfort, Nicole said. She didn't wear them during the birthday party.

After the surgery, the family will visit Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in Orlando once again for Ireland's second pair of prosthetic legs.

Since the accident, about $150,000 has been donated to the Nugents for Ireland's medical expenses. On Sunday, the music, decorations, costumes, and games were donated by Rockin' Glam Parties of Largo.

The party was held at the Nugents' neighborhood club house. As presents piled up near the fireplace, Ireland sat in a small circle and played hot potato.

She smiled as her mother carried her and swayed to the music. She had a pretzel and juice break with her dad.

And after the Spider-Man suit became too hot, she swam with pink floaties in the clubhouse pool.

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157.

Mower victim Ireland Nugent celebrates third birthday with party 08/11/13 [Last modified: Sunday, August 11, 2013 10:38pm]
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