A summertime chore nearly cost a little girl her life. A Clarksville man was mowing his lawn when his 5-year-old daughter ran out in front of the lawn mower.
Now, the family wants to share their story in a push to protect others.
Her enthusiasm for life is so infectious it's difficult to tell Elizabeth Rose Wanaka was ever injured, but on June 6 the unthinkable happened.
"We just put up a new playset in the backyard, and she was wanting to play on it. And she was running around, and before I knew it, she was under the lawn mower," said mother Victoria Wanaka.
While mowing the lawn, Elizabeth's father accidentally ran over her foot, and in a matter of seconds everything changed.
"We were completely devastated. The whole thing felt surreal," Wanaka said.
After a call to 911, a medical helicopter showed up in their backyard. And it was only when Elizabeth was being loaded onto a stretcher that the family realized how bad her injuries were.
"He looked at us and said, 'First, we need to save her life, and then we can be concerned about saving the leg,'" Wanaka said.
After six surgeries, a blood transfusion, a tissue graph and the amputation of her big toe, Elizabeth is back to her old self, and her parents are hoping to get their story out to as many people who will listen.
"Children move amazingly fast. You turn your head for a quarter of a second, and they're on the other side of the lawn," Wanaka said.
Sadly, many children injured by lawn mowers are not as fortunate as Elizabeth. Though her parents are terribly sad it happened, they're on a mission.
"Children, every day, are winding up in children's hospitals. It's not something you know about until it happens to you or somebody you know. Unfortunately, we had to be that family," Wanaka said.
The family warns you to always be aware of where your children are in the yard, and take extra precautions when you're using the lawn mower and other equipment with little ones nearby.
Many lawn mower manufacturers recommend keeping children at least 75 feet away from the equipment, but Wanaka says, to be safe, children should not even be outside when the lawn is being mowed.
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