Boy Recovering From Mower Injury Faster Than Expected

June 19, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

BALTIMORE — The hospital hallway was crowded with three television cameramen andtheir equipment.

In the corner, a doctor was showing reporters X-rays of a 2-year-old boy's ravaged legs.

It was a media circus at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, butthe doctor and the boy's parents were enduring the lights and confusion in hopes their words would prevent another accident like the one the boy survived.

Rory Flynn, of Mount Airy, rode into the hubbub in a wheelchair pushed by his mother, Susanne E. Flynn. He held a stuffed white rabbit on his lap, and his legs were covered with a lightweight blanket. His blue eyes looked around, confused. Even 2-year-olds who have spent five weeks in a hospital being poked by doctors aren't prepared for a crush of photographers.

He started to cry when his mother lifted the blanket to show the metal rods holding the bonesof his left leg in place. His right foot had been amputated.

While Rory and his mother went into an examining room with the doctor, his father, Patrick J. Flynn, a sociology professor at Montgomery College, explained what happened on May 7.

Flynn was mowing weeds with a 52-horsepower tractor in a pasture on the family's 44-acre farm at about 7 p.m. He had given his older son, Cameron, 5, tractor rides onhis lap for several years, and Rory also had taken his turn.

Thatnight, as Flynn was lifting Rory down to the ground at the end of the ride, his foot slipped off the clutch pedal, and the tractor lurched. The tractor wheel knocked Rory down and rolled over him, causing the mower blades to hit his legs.

Flynn said he thought he had killed his son.

Paul Sponseller, chief of pediatric orthopedics at theChildren's Center, said Rory will have to wear a prosthesis to replace his right foot and probably will have stiffness in his left knee, but eventually should be able to play ball. He's recovering ahead of schedule, the doctor said.

"You can't supervise your kids when you're operating the mower, so they should be kept out of the way," Sponseller said.

Flynn said, "It's advice I wish I had followed myself. I had been given that advice. I ignored it."

Two other boys -- one from Baltimore and the other from Cockeysville, Baltimore County -- have been treated at the Children's Center since April after being injured in mower accidents. Neither was as severely injured as Rory, Sponseller said.

The hospital is calling the number of accidents so far this year an epidemic. Usually only three such accidents occur all summer, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"Lawn mower accidents arestriking in their suddenness and tragedy," Sponseller said. "Most people don't understand how serious they can be. Children suffer permanent damage, and the guilt among family members is tremendous."

Thehospital cited statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission that say 19,000 people are injured every year in lawn mower accidents and that 15 percent of the injuries are to children.

Sponsellersaid children should never ride on a mower, and that children under 5 should be kept inside when a mower is in use.

Gary Smith, a safety specialist for the Cooperative Extension Service at the Universityof Maryland, said surveys show the number of farm accidents is declining. Farmers are buying newer, safer equipment and are being educated about safety procedures by the extension service, Southern States Cooperative, the Farm Bureau and other groups, he said.

Robert Shirley, 4-H extension agent, said the 4-H office offers a tractor-safetycourse every year for 14- to 16-year-olds. Federal law says anyone under 16 cannot operate a tractor of more than 20 horsepower without passing such a course, he said.

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