PALM HARBOR - For the most part, physical therapy is like playtime for 2-year-old Ireland Nugent, who is still getting the hang of her new legs.
"She's so 2," said her mom, Nicole Nugent.
The curly-haired toddler giggled constantly during a physical therapy session this week at the All Children's Outpatient Care Center in East Lake, as physical therapist Gloria Bone encouraged her to play on a small plastic slide, making sure Ireland bent her knees - something she's still getting used to - and put a foot in each rung on her way up.
"She's very smart, and she picks up on things very quickly," Nugent said.
Back in April, Ireland lost her lower legs and suffered a major hand injury when her father accidentally ran over her while reversing a riding lawn mower. Occupational therapy for her hand has ended. Last week, she received a two prosthetic legs and is undergoing physical therapy so she can stand and walk on her own again.
Those who work with Ireland say she's recovering quite quickly. During a recent visit to the Orlando medical center that fitted her with her prosthetics, her parents were told she moved so well that she didn't need a set of sensors that gage how the new limbs fit.
"She's doing great," said Kelli Miller, another physical therapist who has been working with Ireland. "She's adapting beautifully, and I'm very proud of her."
At home, Ireland is still getting used to the prosthetics. She wears them for about an hour a day and practices her walking. When she's not wearing them, she crawls. Or swims.
"She'll tell me to put them on and take them off," Nugent said. "It's kind of still a game at home. She's enjoyed being able to go into the pool. Now that she has the liners, she's able to get in the pool again."
The liners, which go between Ireland's prosthetics and her skin, are made of a shiny, vinyl-like material. One is pink, one is purple. Her new legs are decorated with fabric: one has a Minnie Mouse design, the other is Dora the Explorer.
Those legs will only last her about three months, her mother said. She'll have to get new ones after that.
In that time, Miller expects she'll be able to start walking on her own, once she's confident.
"Her difficulty, I've noticed, is getting used to bending her prosthetics," Kelly said. "They're a little bit heavier than her legs were previously. They're a little bit heavier and a little bit longer, so she has to get used to them. And we're going to have to work on building up her hip strength as well, to stabilize her a little bit better and get some balance."
For now, Ireland can take as many as 10 steps without holding onto anything, though she has trouble fully standing up for more than a few seconds.
Ireland's determination plays a huge part in her quick recovery, but the fact that she hadn't been walking very long before the accident might help, Kelly said.
"She seemed to adapt to them very well," she said. "The younger they are, the quicker that they adjust."
Ireland's recovery may be coming along relatively quickly, but not inexpensively. A fund initially set up by the family's church has received thousands of dollars in donations, and the nonprofit 50 Legs has also collected nearly $20,000 to help cover the family's medical costs. Two fundraisers benefiting the Ireland Nugent Trust Fund are scheduled for today: one at Dunedin Lanes and another at Seven Springs Golf Course in New Port Richey.
The outpouring of support from the community has been a bright spot in what was a tragic set of events, as has Ireland's progress, said her father, Jerry Nugent.
"Her milestones have been just one right after the other," he said.