By Dave Taylor
On Saturday, Krystal Sharp set up an antique school desk and an old globe in the perfect spot in Vastwood Park, taking back-to-school pictures, but these pictures were a fundraiser for her godson, a young boy who’d lost several fingers to a lawnmower accident this summer, which the boy’s parents now hope serves as a warning to other parents to be more watchful.
Sharp and her husband Shelby are best friends with Lauren and Jamison “Jamo” Hartman, so when the Hartman’s 4-year-old son Grayson was injured in the mower accident, Krystal decided to use what she knew, photography, to help them out, like she’s done several times for others, including for people fighting cancer, for the local animal shelter, and for her church’s preschool.
“I asked her if you’re OK I’ll do another photography fundraiser,” Sharp said.
The short day made about $500 for the family, which has been through an ordeal that began innocently enough on a sunny day on July 28.
“Grayson wanted to mow the yard that day, so I was like, all right, we’ll mow the yard,” said Lauren Hartman.
Grayson had done it a million times, riding on the mower while one of his parents mowed, even though in the beginning they only allowed him on while the blades weren’t running.
“But literally it got to where any time he heard the lawnmower he immediately wanted to go ride it with Daddy,” she said.
Eventually it happened so often that they got comfortable, and since the yard did need to be mowed, they’d let him ride along.
“Like we’ve heard of people getting hurt, kids getting hurt on mowers but you think oh we’re so careful,” she said. “You always think that’s not going to happen to us… “And growing up when I was little, I always rode with my dad mowing.”
On that July day Lauren was on the zero-turn mower with Grayson, who was then 4, and his little sister Carlie, 2, at their house in Lewisport, while Jamo was at work.
“We had done it 100 times before, but for some reason that day as I was turning, the wheel must’ve gotten turned the wrong way or something,” she said.
When the wheel caught it jarred Grayson forward and off the side head first. She caught him by his shirt, but not before he grabbed onto the mower deck to catch himself, severing three fingers and damaging his hand.
“Whenever he raised up that’s when I saw the blood, but I didn’t realize what had actually happened until I turned the lawnmower off,” she said. “Once I got off and saw what happened I definitely freaked out.”
She ran inside and called Jamo at work, who didn’t answer, and then her mother-in-law Lisa Hartman, who lived nearby. Lauren is a nurse, so she began to treat Grayson’s injuries.
“I came inside and grabbed a towel and a belt to hold pressure on his hand so he didn’t bleed out or anything,” she said. “It cut his middle finger, his ring finger and his pinky… Kind of mid-finger up is gone.”
“When Lisa got there to sit with Grayson I ran outside to look for his fingers and couldn’t find them,” she said.
They found two little pieces, one of which had enough good skin to use for a skin graft on his index finger.
After calling 911, the first on the scene was Troy Roberts, who works at Lewisport Baptist Church nearby, where the Hartmans attend, and where Roberts’ wife Teresa is Grayson’s preschool teacher.
“He knew Troy and I knew Troy so that was just such a relief,” Lauren said. “I knew he was going to be OK once Troy got there.”
The church was also the scene of the landing zone for the Air Evac helicopter, which flew Grayson to Louisville to Norton’s Children’s Hospital.
From there the tragic situation began to be met with an equivalent support from friends and neighbors.
“Krystal and my friend Nicole Robbins, they posted on Facebook right when it happened asking for donations because we didn’t know how long we were going to be up there,” she said.
The hospital stay only wound up lasting 24 hours, where Norton’s sewed up Grayson’s hand and grafted skin onto his index finger, as well as placing pins in his fractured thumb.
When he was released, the family was met with more outpouring of support.
“The day that he got to come home, the next day, our neighbors all got together… and they all made signs and got balloons blown up,” she said.
One neighbor spelled out “welcome home Grayson, God bless” in Styrofoam cups in his fence, and others drew chalk messages on the driveway welcoming him home and they held up the signs as the family drove past.
“As we drove through we had the windows rolled down and he was really surprised. It was so sweet,” she said.
He turned 5 just a couple of weeks after the accident, and he’s learning to live with three missing fingers, but Lauren said the outcome could have been much worse.
“You just think about well it could’ve been his right hand, it could’ve been his whole hand, it could’ve been his whole arm, or it could’ve been Carlie,” she said. “Literally probably less than five minutes before it happened, Carlie was on that left side…
“She’s 2, she’s so much smaller. She wouldn’t have been able to catch herself,” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that she would’ve completely went off of the lawnmower and I probably would’ve run over her. No doubt about it.”
Grayson’s injury, and the potential for much worse outcomes, can serve as a warning to other parents who have the same attitude that the Hartmans once had.
“People just think it’s not going to happen to me,” she said. “Don’t let our accident become your tragedy… It could definitely happen again and it could be a lot worse.”