TAMPA — Ireland Nugent, the Palm Harbor toddler whose legs were severed below the knee in a lawn-mower accident earlier this month, suffered a setback in her ongoing medical treatment Tuesday when doctors found that one of her legs is infected, a family spokesman said.
The discovery interrupted what had been a relatively seamless recovery for the 2-year-old girl since the accident almost two weeks ago. It led to an unexpected surgery Tuesday and set the stage for two more surgeries in the coming week, said the Nugents' pastor, Dennis Reid of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Clearwater.
A skin graft on Ireland's right leg was not successful, Reid said, leading to inflamed tissue that doctors began removing. The girl has been put back on a breathing apparatus and returned to the intensive care unit in anticipation of two more surgeries to further cleanse the leg and perform a second skin graft, he said.
Last week, Ireland had her breathing tube removed and began to interact with family members. She left the intensive care unit over the weekend. In photos shared with the Times by Reid, she could be seen Tuesday morning in a hospital playroom with her mother, her stumps tightly bandaged.
Doctors discovered the infection Tuesday while "shrink-wrapping" the remains of Ireland's legs, molding and tightening the tips of her legs in preparation for prosthetic devices.
Reid said the need for further surgeries is a "minor setback," albeit one that deflated the Nugents' hope of bringing Ireland home this week. The additional surgeries required to deal with the infection could also postpone the girl's fitting for prosthetic limbs.
"They're disappointed," he said of parents Jerry and Nicole Nugent. "They were really hoping to get her to come home, but they also realize that with something like this, it's three steps forward, one step back, and then forward again."
On the night of April 11, Ireland's father, Jerry Nugent, was driving a riding lawn mower up the family's driveway at 560 Hollow Ridge Road. Ireland escaped from a backyard enclosure and ran behind him, witnesses said. Nicole Nugent motioned for her husband to stop, but he misinterpreted and backed the mower up, running over the girl.
The accident severed both Ireland's legs below the knee, also cutting her hand and breaking her thumb. She was flown to Tampa General Hospital, where she endured four surgeries.
Tuesday's surgery and the additional two would bring the count of surgeries to seven.
Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.