Ireland Nugent plays in her hospital room with her father Jeremiah. Photo courtesy the Tampa Bay Times.
Tampa, Florida -- She smiles when she opens new toys and makes animals out of Play Doh.
It's that smile, and Ireland Nugent's spirit, that strengthen her family.
"She's just happy and spunky and it keeps us going," her mom, Nicole, said during an exclusive visit to Ireland's hospital room by 10 News and the Tampa Bay Times. "It really does."
In the three weeks since she lost her feet in a lawnmower accident, Ireland has been a fighter, through surgeries and even through small setbacks that occurred last week after a skin graft didn't take.
"She's been very strong through this whole process," Nicole says. "In fact, it's been hard for us to even read that she's in pain at times. I kind of have to read her physical cues because she just doesn't cry."
The Nugents use toys like Winter the Dolphin and Mr. Potato Head to show her what getting prosthetic legs will be like.
"Yesterday, I was rubbing her leg and I said, 'Ireland, I love your legs,'" her dad, Jerry recalls. "She said, 'Thank you, Daddy.' It just melts your heart to hear that. It's so cute."
To see how two-year-old Ireland has inspired so many people, just look at the balloons, toys, and cards that fill her hospital room, a room she may not have to stay in much longer.
"A lot is up in the air until tomorrow because we could be starting the process all over again," says Nicole.
On Thursday, doctors will do a final check of two skin grafts to make sure they've healed. If they have, a shrinker will be put on to mold her leg for prosthetics. That would bring Ireland one step closer to coming home.
"This has been the biggest nightmare of my life, honestly. I never imagined that this would happen to her, but through this have come so many blessings," Nicole says. "First, she lived, and we didn't know when it first happened if that was going to happen."
Their biggest concern is for Ireland's future, and for celebrating every moment in the present.
"When I see her, it's just like a weight is lifted," Jerry says. "I know she's there and she's going to be okay."
Trinity Presbyterian Church has raised $85,000 for the family so far. Their youth group will be selling bracelets with Ireland's name on them at future fundraisers.
Checks can be made out to Trinity Presbyterian Foundation, with "Ireland Nugent" in the memo field, and mailed to:
Trinity Presbyterian Church
2001 Rainbow Drive
Clearwater, Florida 33765
The church has also set up a Paypal fund, which can be accessed on their website, www.trinityclearwater.org.
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