FORT WORTH -- Alexus Duckett was watching her father cut the grass when she felt a stabbing pain in her throat.
The Stephenville seventh-grader had been hit with a piece of rusted garden trim kicked up by the mower and shot toward her like a missile.
"It could have killed her," said her mother, Jayme Duckett.
The metal sliced almost 3 inches into her neck. Doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center removed it, and the 13-year-old was home within a day and at school a week later. Her only physical reminder is a 2-inch scar.
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"It was only a millimeter from some of her major vessels," Duckett said. "Considering what could have happened, we were definitely blessed."
Five-year-old Christian Hernandez was not as fortunate. Doctors had to amputate the Granbury boy's leg below the knee.
His mother, Rita Hernandez, said her 10-year-old son was on a riding mower cutting the grass on April 13, a Friday, and for the first time Christian hung on the back. Their father was nearby using the weed trimmer.
The accident happened quickly. Now Christian is in a wheelchair. His brother is distraught even though his mother has repeatedly told him, "It was an accident."
Hernandez hopes her son's injury will serve as a warning to others.
"I wish I had heard how dangerous this is," she said. "This never would have happened."
As warm weather ushers in yardwork, numerous agencies are highlighting the dangers associated with mowing the lawn and are reminding people about proper safety precautions.
Cook Children's staffers don't keep precise numbers, but they believe that they're seeing more mower injuries this year, spokeswoman Kristin Peaks said.
"Several children treated in the emergency room for lawn mower injuries had to have their legs amputated," Peaks said.
One was a boy who was riding on a mower with his grandfather. The youngster jumped off and was pulled under the machine.
Dr. Rod Rohrich, professor and chairman of the department of plastic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said he has not seen an increase in injuries. But he urged caution.
"Children should not be allowed in the vicinity of lawn mowers because the machines are so dangerous," he said. "It's irresponsible."
Some people will say that is just common sense, he said, noting that "unfortunately there's not a lot of common sense."
Even when doctors repair children's damaged digits, limbs and eyes, he said, "It changes their lives."
Dr. Jeff Kenkel, professor and vice chairman of the plastic surgery department at UT Southwestern, said children generally recover more quickly than adults -- their nerves regenerate faster, they aren't as stiff so they do well in rehab, and they are eager to make progress.
Parents of injured children don't always bounce back as fast.
"Whether they were directly involved in the accident or not, they feel guilty," Kenkel said.
His advice: "It's OK for a kid to rid a pony or a bike, but not a mower. Just practice safe mowing."
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 253,000 people were treated for mower-related injuries in 2010, nearly 17,000 of them children under 19.
The most common accidents leading to injuries involve contact with the rotating blade, propelled objects such as rocks and glass, overturning -- including contact with the blades -- and running over someone. Treatment may require a team of physicians from various specialties.
Organizations promoting lawn mower safety include the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
"I've seen broken and dislocated bones, deep cuts, missing fingers and toes, limb amputations, burns and eye injuries from lawn mower accidents," said Dr. Phillip Haeck, former president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "The best way to treat a lawn-mower-related injury is to prevent it."
The Duckett family, which considers itself lucky, is taking extra precautions.
"Nobody's allowed outside once the mower starts," Jayme Duckett said.
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367