Volume18 · Issue 4 · May/June 2008 | Download PDF
by Rick Bowers
Talk about love!
That’s what you’ll hear in Mike and Sandra Kozloski’s voices when they talk about their 7-year-old daughter, Jordan.
Sometimes, though, you’ll also hear something else – the sound of sorrow, pain and guilt.
When the couple adopted Jordan, she was just 2, and they had great dreams of building a happy family. “We believe that God put her here so that we could love her and nurture her, and we wanted to take care of her,” Sandra says.
Indeed, they went to great lengths to do so. “They were building a subdivision behind our house at that time,” Sandra explains, “so I had Mike put up a fence to protect her from all of the heavy machinery and the people going through the subdivision.”
Unfortunately, like many other parents, the couple soon learned – on May 17, 2003, to be exact – that you just can’t protect your child from everything. That morning, as Mike mowed the yard with a riding lawnmower, Sandra and Jordan came outside to go to the store. Before Sandra could stop her, the 2-year-old darted toward Mike to say goodbye.
Unfortunately, at that moment, Mike ran up against the fence and started to back up. “I looked and didn’t see anything, and then I backed up,” he explains. “And she was there.”
It only took a second, Mike says. “Sandra yelled, but with the lawnmower running, I couldn’t hear her. When the mower suddenly quit, I knew I’d hit something, but, at first, I thought it was the raised garden that we had there. Then, I heard Sandy scream.” Suddenly, the terrible realization came over him: He had run over Jordan! Saving her life immediately became the first priority, as the couple simultaneously struggled within themselves, wondering how this tragedy happened and what they might have done differently to prevent it.
Sandra, a nurse, went into crisis mode and immediately washed out and applied pressure to Jordan’s wound. She was bleeding profusely, and only a piece of bone and some tissue close to her pelvis held her leg to her body.
Though devastated, Mike pulled himself together enough to call 911. “I was on my knees praying most of the time,” Mike says, “but I tried to do what I could to help.” The ambulance took about 45 minutes to get to the house. While Mike and Sandra waited, prayed and tried to save their daughter from bleeding to death, Jordan grasped Mike’s finger. Just before she passed out, she lovingly reassured her distraught father: “I be fine, Daddy. I be fine.”
Jordan was first rushed to a nearby hospital but was later flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Later that evening, the distraught Mike and Sandra got the heartbreaking news from the doctor: Jordan’s left leg had to be amputated.
Though happy that Jordan was alive, Sandra struggled with intense feelings of guilt, blaming herself for doing the very thing she had done to protect Jordan: putting up the fence. She reasoned that since she had told Mike to put up the fence and since the fence made it necessary for Mike to back up the mower, the accident was her fault.
“I feel guilty every day of my life,” she says, her voice cracking with emotion.
Mike, too, struggles with guilt. “We have faith that God doesn’t put more on us than we can handle and that everything is for a purpose,” he explains, “but when it’s that severe, it’s hard to keep it in perspective and not feel guilty.”
Over the years, however, the intense guilt that the couple felt in the beginning has lessened. “I feel guilty,” Mike says, “but, at the same time, I don’t because I see some good from the accident.”
Both Mike and Sandra take some comfort in knowing that their story benefits others. “People say, ‘Well, you know, I’ve ridden my kid around on a lawnmower or they’ve been outside playing catch while I cut the lawn,’” Mike says. “They just don’t think about the risk until they hear our story.”
The couple also take comfort in knowing that they didn’t really “destroy” Jordan’s life.
“She’s thriving,” Mike says, proudly. “She’s amazing. She participates in the Challenged Athletes Foundation event every year in San Diego, and she just excels. She touches people’s hearts, she shares herself, and she’s just so outgoing and lovely! She’s a great golfer too. She’s been playing in the U.S. Kids tour in Atlanta. She took third place last year!”
“I feel that God gave her to us so that we could help her achieve her goal in life, which is working with these challenged athletes,” Sandra says. “I really think that’s where she’s supposed to be.”
The couple have also talked to others who’ve had a similar accident. They try to help other parents realize that their children, whatever their disability, can excel if their parents encourage and love them and don’t treat them differently from others.
When Jordan lost her leg, Mike and Sandra had no one to talk to who had been in the same situation. Today, they believe that the most beneficial help they might have had early on would have been meeting other people in the same situation.
“I’d like to see more support groups out there for families,” says Sandra. “I think that would really help parents know that their children can really survive this, that they themselves can survive this, and that their children can thrive.”
Logically, Mike and Sandra know the accident was not their fault, but then something can happen to bring back the feelings of guilt.
“We had a situation last year when we overheard some parents saying, ‘Look at that kid. How could the parents let them be in the yard when they were cutting the lawn?’” Mike says. “They didn’t realize that we were the parents.”
Some parents also no longer let their kids play with Jordan. “That bothers me,” Mike says, “but you don’t need people who are that shallow in your life. I’d rather deal with the guilt than deal with some people.”
The parents are also worried about the future. Though they have good health insurance and have had a lot of support from the community and from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, they don’t know what the future holds for Jordan when a single prosthesis can cost tens of thousands of dollars and a growing child will need many of them.
“That’s the guilt that I feel right now,” Mike says. “As she gets older, how is she going to pay for the legs and the equipment she needs?”
But, he says, some things are better left to God. “This was just planned for this child, and the only place she could survive or thrive with it is in our family. Call it fate, call it ironic, call it whatever you want. She came here for a reason. We got the adoption call out of the blue, and she’s here. We loved her before we met her, saw her, or knew her, and she’s been loved ever since.”
Their love for Jordan and knowing that Jordan doesn’t blame them for the accident helps them tremendously.
“Sometimes,” Mike says, “when we ask her if she misses her leg, she’ll look at me and say, ‘Don’t worry, Daddy. I’ve got two legs.’ She loves us, and she just hates to hurt Daddy’s feelings.”
Each year, more than 9,000 youths go to the emergency room due to power mower injuries. (Source: American Academy of Pediatrics)
For more information on preventing childhood injuries, visit the following Web sites:
American Academy of Pediatrics – Parenting Corner http://www.aap.org/parents.html
American Trauma Society http://www.amtrauma.org
Sharing life experiences with others who have faced similar challenges can be comforting and help families adjust. The Amputee Coalition has launched a new Parent Support Network for those who want to connect. This program, as well as other Amputee Coalition programs and services, will be included in the many youth and parenting sessions offered as part of the new Child and Family Track for the 2008 Amputee Coalition National Conference being held in June in Atlanta. For more information on the educational opportunities for you and your child through the Amputee Coalition Youth Activities Department or at the Amputee Coalition National Conference, please visit our Web site or call 888/267-5669, ext. 8130.