Damaged toe teaches teens lesson in safety

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— A clever idea fueled by good intentions ended with a lawn-mowing accident that tore a hole in 13-year-old Nick Garrett's shoe and shaved off part of his toe bone.

Peggy Garrett, Nick's mother, wishes her son and his friend had been a little more cautious last Sunday. If they had, Peggy said, Nick might have his full toe intact and he'd be able to play in an in-line skating hockey tournament this weekend.

Instead, Nick is sitting at home after two surgeries, hoping to lace up his skates in four to five weeks.

"I don't want to discourage kids about working, but I just want them to learn from my son's mistake," Peggy said.

Garrett and a friend, Andrew Zopf, started a summer business Odd Job Services to earn extra money. They had received a good response from potential customers and had mowed other lawns before they received a large job on County Road 44.

The tall, thick grass on the rural property made it difficult to detect objects lying in the vegetation. Before observing the area or checking for anything underneath the grass, Garrett and Zopf plunged ahead, eager to finish the job.

"So many kids will be out mowing this summer that they need to be aware of the safety issues involved with mowing lawns," Peggy said. "People don't think that there's going to be anything under the grass."

The first obstacle that Garrett and Zopf found hidden under the grass was a large rock. It flipped up and broke the mower's blade.

A second obstacle was even more damaging.

As Garrett was pushing the mower downhill, he ran into a hole. The mower stopped suddenly and his soccer-shoe covered foot slipped underneath the machine where the rotating blade slashed his toe.

"I've learned to be more careful and to wear good shoes (when mowing)," Garrett said.

Garrett and Zopf also weren't prepared to use the cellular phone that their parents had left for them. They knew how to play video games on the phone, Peggy said, but when Zopf tried to dial 911, he couldn't get the number to go through.

About 10 minutes later a neighbor heard Garrett screaming and called for help.

"We should have mowed slower," Zopf said. "We were trying to mow fast so we could watch the Avalanche game."

He and Garrett ended up catching the game at the hospital.

Lawnmowing accidents such as Nick's can be avoided if safety steps are taken. Such precautions include:

n Walking through property to find anything that is hidden under the grass;

n Making sure the lawnmower runs properly;

n Wearing eye protection;

n Wearing steel-toed boots or heavy boots with leather toes, and

n Wearing jeans or long pants.

About six to 10 people suffering from lawnmowing injuries come into the emergency room each summer, said Dena Shively, an emergency nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Center. The most injury-prone areas, she said, are feet and hands. Injuries also are caused by mowers running over foreign objects and throwing them at people.

"He's very lucky, I've seen a lot worse with this type of accident," said Dr. Bryan Bomberg, who examined Garrett's damaged foot.

Larissa Keever is an editorial intern at the Steamboat Pilot/Steamboat Today.

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