One moment, 5-year-old Italia McAllister was playing in the yard with her younger brother. The next, her life was changed forever.
“I knew she was hurt - the sound I heard and seeing her laying on the ground, I knew something was wrong,” Italia’s father Cody McAllister told People. “I ran to her screaming, and I still hadn’t seen anything yet. I picked her up and that’s when I noticed her foot.”
Italia had been running around the yard with her brother while a family member was cutting the grass on a riding mower. Suddenly Italia fell down near the lawnmower, and the relative, who didn't realize she was behind him, put the mower in reverse to turn around, the Indy Star reported.
"We were sitting on the deck, and I heard, you know, just like a rock getting caught in a lawnmower," her father told the Indy Star. "I mean, that's the sound I heard, and there's no rocks in that area. So I just happened to look and she was laying on the ground, and I knew it was bad."
Her dad, an emergency medical technician, was able to stop the bleeding before she was airlifted to the Riley Hospital for Children, the paper reported. The blades had mangled her foot so badly that doctors decided to amputate it.
“It can happen to anyone in the blink of an eye. She was just out there playing and I was out there and out of nowhere, in the blink of an eye,” McAllister told Fox 59. "It’s dangerous. It can happen. It did happen and I never thought it would happen."
A GoFundMe page to help pay for her medical expenses was created, which has raised more than $14,000 so far.
She's now started physical therapy, and her family says she's doing well and making her visitors smile. "She can just look at you ... crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue," McAllister told the Indy Star. "She'll make up her own jokes and they don't even make sense, but they're still funny."
Her dad told People Italia's family didn't bear any ill-will toward the relative who was driving the lawn mower.
"They're pretty torn up, they’re beating themselves up pretty good,” he told the site. “We’re trying to stay positive with that, too, and give them support. It truly was an accident — it was all in a blink of an eye.”
Now the family is focused on spreading the word about lawnmower safety, and trying to make sure something like this doesn't happen to another family. Tens of thousands of adults and thousands of children are treated in emergency rooms for lawnmower-related injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Italia's mom wrote on Facebook that she wanted Italia's story to go viral to spread awareness about the danger, and Italia's grandmother started a petition urging manufacturers to add more safety features to lawnmowers
"Nobody ever thinks to look behind them on a lawnmower," McAllister told the Indy Star. "That's why I'm trying to raise awareness of it and get people to realize it can happen to anybody."