What every parent should know before mowing the lawn this summer

Noah and Henry Burmester

Henry Burmester (right) is comforted by little brother Noah (left) at Children's Hospital

In May of 2003, my husband was mowing the lawn with our riding mower when he put it in reverse. He heard a scream from my 4-year-old son Henry. He was horrified to learn that he had just backed over Henry, amputating half of his foot and severely cutting his left leg and thigh.

Henry had run up behind my husband to tell him something. He wasn’t afraid of approaching a lawn mower. His dad and grandfather used to give him tractor rides around the yard for fun. Essentially, we unknowingly taught him not to be afraid of a lawnmower.

Henry spent three weeks at Children’s Hospital and went through seven surgeries over the next couple of months. We are grateful for the excellent care he received and he’s made an exceptional recovery since then.

After Henry was hurt, we were surprised to learn he was just one of 10,000 American children injured in lawn mower accidents that year. Henry’s injury was not a freak accident. These injuries happen far too often and every single year, with dire consequences for our children.

Please talk to your children about the dangers of lawnmowers.  Tell them that mowers are actually revolving knives and they should never, ever approach one when it’s running. Know where your kids are before you mow. The very best place for them to be while mowers are in operation is under supervision inside your house.

And please, never let your children ride on your lap when mowing.  The dangers are very real . . . and very devastating. Henry learned that the hard way.

If you want to learn more, go to knowbeforeyoumow.org.

Read more lawn mower safety tips from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

–Terri Burmester, Cedarburg, Wis.


What every parent should know before mowing the lawn this summer — 3 Comments

  1. Terri does a nice job explaining the important aspects of lawn mower safety. Unfortunately, she had to experience it firsthand with her son Henry. In the Orthopedic department at Children’s we see these kids every year. Most, like Henry, suffer lower extremity injuries which usually involve amputations and numerous surgeries by us as well as our peds and plastic surgeons.

    These injuries are not limited to riding lawn mowers and little kids only. All it takes is a teenager trying to get the lawn mowed in a hurry, on a hill with wet grass and flip flops . . .

    Every year we treat numerous lawn mower injuries and this year is no exception. We already have seen and treated several injuries before the first of June! With attention to detail and observing the previous mentioned precautions, maybe next year we will be lawn mower injury free!

    Scott Van Valin, MD, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

  2. This reminds many of us the dangers that we take for granted. My son loves to help mow the yard with me and I have never considered that as a potential danger.

    This post really opened my eyes. Thanks again!

  3. John Thometz, MD, Chief of Pediatric Orthopedics at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin on said:

    Lawnmower injures are terrible tragedies. They generally cause severe disfiguring injuries, and may lead to amputation or death. Every effort must be made to avoid these injuries. Children should never ride on a lawnmower. Parents must be sure that little children are not in the yard when the lawnmower is used. Children under 12 should not operate a lawnmower. Great care must be taken when the lawn surface is uneven. Greater awareness of how these injuries occur will help decrease their incidence.