A 5-year-old girl is recovering at a children’s hospital after losing her lower left leg in a lawn mower accident, and her parents and doctor are speaking out about the dangers lawn mowers pose to children.
Italia McAllister is a kindergartner in Elkhart who loves cheerleading, according to her parents, Robyn and Cody. Cody McAllister described how the family was visiting Italia’s grandparents and a family member was out mowing the lawn. Italia and her brother darted toward the mower just as it was put in reverse.
“As they put reverse, the barrels had knocked her down and no one even noticed until the mower caught her foot ,” McAllister said. “The sound of her, I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget the sound.”
Italia was seriously injured and required a traumatic amputation of her foot. She was then airlifted from Eklhart to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and was put in the hands of Dr. Greg Gaski.
“They cause not only a large amount of physical destruction to extremities,” Gaski said, “but they cause a lot of psychological trauma to the patients and families.”
Gaski treated Italia and another young child named Lelane, who experienced a similar accident. Lelane will keep both of his legs, but, Gaski said, both children have a long road ahead before they can walk without pain.
“We see at least 7-8 every year, and they’re devastating, life-changing events,” he said.
Italia’s parents have made it their mission to share the dangers of lawn mowers with their community and hopefully save another child.
“No one thinks about mowers,” the doctor said. “People take rides with their kids on lawn mowers and no one realizes how quick it can happen. It truly is a blink of an eye that it can happen.”
“First and foremost, when a family member is mowing the yard, children should be inside. Especially kids under 7-8. There should no exception,” he said.
Gaski also recommended adults not wear headphones while mowing and never allow a child to sit on their lap while on a riding mower or help push a traditional mower. He also said families who visit parks frequently should learn the lawn mowing schedule for that area.
Italia has had two surgeries and has a skin graft and plastic surgery scheduled for Friday. Her parents said she is progressing extremely well and is already walking unassisted through the hospital hallways with her walker.
“Seeing her smile puts a smile on my face,” father Cody McAllister said. “She’s going right back to cheerleading. She’s already talked about it.”
They hope this preventable disaster won’t strike another family.
“People need to be aware that lawn mowers are just as dangerous as anything else,” he said.
The McAllisters created a petition to have more safety features on lawn mowers.