The school playground should be a safe place and an enjoyable time for a young child. Sadly, that wasn’t the case for a 6-year-old boy when things went terribly wrong during recess, leaving him almost unrecognizable and in a coma. Be warned, the images are graphic.
Alex Hook, a 6-year-old boy from Kenosha, Wisconsin, left his classroom for recess at River View Elementary on a Friday to have a good time, playing with his peers. Sadly, tragedy struck as the first-grader — who loves dinosaurs, trucks, boats, and hanging out with his brother Nathan — bent down, not realizing the innocent move was a recipe for disaster.
As Alex bent over on the school playground, he was struck in the head in a terrible, freak accident. “Had he been standing up, maybe nothing more than a broken leg had occurred,” his godmother explained. Unfortunately, because of Alex’s position, his injuries were much worse than just a broken bone when a piece of rebar flew out of nowhere, hitting his head with great force, Newsner reported.
Apparently, someone on the other side of the chain-link fence that surrounded the playground was mowing the grassy median on county property in the center of the street near the school and had run over the rebar, sending it flying through the air from underneath the lawnmower, according to Kenosha News.
“It went through the chain-link fence. And he happened to be bending down,” the boy’s aunt and godmother, Michelle Koertgen, told ABC7.
Immediately after the incident, Alex’s mother received a call from the school, informing her that Alex was struck by a piece of metal. Nothing could have prepared her for the condition she’d find her son in when she rushed to his side, however, as she arrived at the school at about the same time as first responders.
“My sister proceeded to where he was and found her son lying on his back with blood coming out of his head, and he was not conscious but he was having basically seizures,” Michelle recalled, according to WISN 12 News.
Due to his severe injuries, Alex was rushed via Flight for Life to Children’s Wisconsin hospital in Wauwatosa, where he underwent brain surgery. Sadly, it wasn’t good news as doctors discovered that a piece of Alex’s skull had lodged into his brain. The first-grader needed half of his skull removed due to swelling, leaving him unrecognizable to family members.
“My sister has not left his side since the moment it happened,” Michelle said, speaking of Alex’s mother, Caryn Hook. “He swelled up yesterday, and it looks like today he swelled up more,” she added, describing what the first-grader and his family endured in the days following the tragic lawnmower accident. “To be honest it doesn’t even look like my nephew that’s how truly horrific this is.”
After half of Alex’s skull was removed due to brain swelling, Alex was placed in a medically induced coma for the next 72 hours with the hopes he would recover. “It’s a waiting game sadly,” Michelle admitted. “Seventy-two hours may not seem like a lot but it’s a lifetime when you’re sitting there watching my nephew, my sister’s son, sitting there with tubes coming out of every orifice of his body. I mean it’s just horrific.”
Making matters worse, Nathan, Alex’s 10-year-old brother, has special needs. Although he was made aware of his younger brother’s injury, he couldn’t understand just how grave his brother’s condition was as Alex remained in critical condition in the hospital, being watched closely in hopes he may recover as he developed a fever during the fight for his life.
“They do everything together. They love each other. They both are just the happiest, most affectionate, wonderful boys you could ever meet,” Michelle said, referring to Alex and his brother Nathan.
Sgt. David Wright with the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department told WISN 12 News that, “while this was a tragic incident, it was ruled an accident, and therefore KSD does not have any further involvement with this incident.” Although it was an accident, it was a preventable one.
In addition to worrying about Alex’s recovery, the family is rightfully questioning why someone chose to mow a lawn near a playground while kids were out to recess, and they are understandably none too pleased.
“Somebody cutting the grass on the median, next to a group of children … this is totally avoidable,” Michelle said. “Why are you mowing the grass when children are around?” she asked. “School is what, 9 a.m. to 3? You can’t do it before or when they are not at recess?”
Alex’s family raises a valid point. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates more than 37,000 Americans suffer a power mower-related injury each year, and such accidents are the leading cause of major amputations for children under 10, according to Metro Family Magazine.
Proving that lawnmowers are a potentially dangerous piece of equipment that should be used with caution, Enabling the Future reports, “Each year, 800 children in the US alone, are run over by riding mowers or small tractors and more than 600 of those incidents result in amputation; 75 people are killed, and 20,000 [are] injured; one in five deaths involves a child. For children under age 10, major limb loss is most commonly caused by lawnmowers.”
What’s more, lawnmowers don’t just present a danger to those using them. They also pose a risk to anyone close by; therefore, basic safety guidelines state that you should “keep your children indoors and do not allow other children to play nearby while you are mowing.” Hopefully, this is a lesson to both parents, schools, and public landscapers alike. Mowers and kids don’t mix, and a chain-link fence between the two is far from enough protection to ensure the safety of those nearby.