ORLANDO, Fla. -
Navigating in her wheelchair, Ireland Nugent played games at Airheads, a trampoline arena.
Less than two blocks away, a prosthetic team at Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates worked feverishly, creating Ireland's new legs. Ireland chose hew very own patterns for the prosthetics, she wanted Dora for one leg and Minnie Mouse for the other.
When Ireland saw them she smiled and said, "Look, look, mine!"
Stan Patterson, the head prosthetist designed them for Ireland and is confident she'll adjust very well.
"She is amazing. She is doing great. At this rate, I think she'll be walking like normal in a week. She is doing so much better than anyone anticipated," said Patterson.
Ireland fist relied on steel bars for support, but then, clinging to her mom, Nicole, and someone she now sees as family, former wrestler Steve Chamberland. Chamberland lost a leg in a motorcycle accident and reached out to the Nugents after hearing about the accident.
"To watch them to go through all that and then come here and see this is amazing," said Chamberland. "You can't really even put it into words. It really is the best feeling ever."
Many smiled and watched her stunning progress, including Aly Smith. Ireland's neighbor, also a nurse, rushed in to help that scary April night when the little girl was run over in a terrible lawn mower accident. The Nugents credit Smith for saving their daughter's life.
"You know they told us she would walk again, and they talked about getting these legs. But you worry that is something that is actually never going to happen. So being able to see her walk and take steps that I didn't know she'd ever take again was really important for me to see," said Smith.
For Ireland's father, who accidentally ran over his daughter that fateful day, seeing her walk like she did before the accident finally allowed him to smile. He was even joking about how happy he was that his toddler chose two different patterns for her prosthetics.
"She was initially going to go with only one of the patterns for both, and I said I would get the legs confused if you do that!" Jerry Nugent laughed.
But the Nugents know this is just the beginning of a long road.
At first, Ireland can only wear her legs for an hour a day. Every three months, she'll outgrow them, meaning they'll be back. But all this they can deal with.
"She's only been without legs for nine weeks, but what a sight, to see her with legs again," smiled her mother Nicole.
Ireland's basic prosthetics are covered through insurance. But, as she grows up, if she wants to get involved in other activities, like sports, those prosthetics will likely not be covered.
That's something on the back of the Nugents mind, even as they enjoy this tremendous milestone.
"I want her to have every opportunity possible and grow up like another girl," said her mother Nicole. "That is why I am so thankful for the community and all the fundraisers and all the money everyone collected as donations. That money will go towards whatever she might need in the future."
In the meantime, the Nugents could not be happier with the Orlando facility.
"It was definitely the right choice," said Jerry Nugent. "Steve (Chamberland) recommended it. I see him as a brother and this was the best for our family. The way they treated us and took care of Ireland, I could not be more pleased. I see them and Stan (Patterson) as family now too."
Patterson also feels a bond with the Nugents. He treated the whole family and friends including Smith and Chamberland to the fun time at Airheads. A great fun distraction before Ireland took her giant steps back to normalcy.
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