Ireland Nugent headed to her home in Palm Harbor Saturday for the first time since she lost both her feet in a lawn mower accident more than three weeks ago.
After three separate doctors cleared the little girl to leave, her parents, Jerry and Nicole Nugent, wheeled the two-year-old out of Tampa General Hospital late in the morning, relieved to be heading back to their house.
"We've never even gone away for a weekend without our kids and now we've been away for three and a half weeks. It's just, it's been hard. Very hard," Nicole Nugent said during a news conference from the family's front yard.
It's been an especially hard time for Ireland's father, who was driving the lawn mower that cut off his daughter's feet. Ireland has since needed seven surgeries. Jerry Nugent said he's trying not to focus on the past anymore.
"I'm just excited to go forward and see what this little angel does in the future," he said.
Dozens of family and friends waited anxiously in the Nugents' driveway for the family to arrive. A loud applause erupted as the crowd spotted the family's car driving down the street.
"We're just really glad to have her home and have her well," said Aly Smith, a next-door neighbor who is also a nurse; Nicole Nugent has credited Smith with saving her daughter's life the day of the accident. "We're living next door and we pretty much said we can never move now."
The Nugents have already started making modifications to their home, including the installation of a wheelchair ramp.
Nicole Nugent said she expects to have to expand the doorways and modify the bathrooms, along with any other improvements needed to help make the home as handicapped-accessible as possible.
"We're really going to have to alter things to make sure she has the most opportunity for independence in our home," she said.
"It's going to be a learning experience for all of us," said Ireland's grandmother, Doreen Delcorpo.
Loved ones said they're looking forward helping the little girl continue to recover and live a happy life, starting with their first night back in their home.
"I'm just going to love her. I don't even know if I'll have words. Just love," Delcorpo said.
"I think we've got some serious snuggle time happening tonight," said Nicole Nugent.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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