HOFFMAN, Minn. — At 10 years old, Skylar Hedstrom is mature beyond her years.
When part of a lawnmower blade sheared off and struck her in the face, leaving her with a 4-inch scar running from the top right side of her forehead to between her eyes and down the right side of her nose, Skylar didn’t let it bother her.
During the hour-and-a-half ambulance ride to a Fargo, N.D., hospital, Skylar calmly looked at her dad and told him, “It doesn’t matter what people look like on the outside, anyway.”
Brian Hedstrom, who lives in Hoffman and works at Douglas Machine in Alexandria, said he was telling his daughter about the kind of scar she would probably end up with. He tried to explain how the scar could become a bigger deal when she gets to the age where she starts flirting with boys.
But to the 10-year-old — who rolled her eyes at her dad when he said she’d be flirting with boys — the scar didn’t matter. In fact, she said it would probably make her look tough when playing basketball.
On Saturday, June 9, Hedstrom had been cutting grass with a riding lawn mower at his farm in Kensington. He said he’s not a “pick-up-sticks-before-he-mows kind of guy.” Although that day, he wishes he had been.
A tool that had been used to take a tire off was apparently left in the grass, and while mowing he ran over it. Hedstrom said he heard something, but thought he must have hit a rock and kept mowing. However, in the next few seconds he found out it wasn’t a rock, but the tool.
“A chunk of the blade, about 4 inches by 2 inches, came off and went under the deck of the mower. The scary thing is, it flew up and out the back of the mower,” he said.
Skylar, who was watching her dad mow, was standing behind and off to the right of him with her stepmother, Marie Hedstrom, and a family friend.
“My wife came running up to me, waving her arms and screaming, pointing to her (Skylar),” Hedstrom said. “I jumped off (the mower), turned around and she was standing there, covered in blood. It was the scariest thing I’ve seen in my whole life.”
Skylar, who didn’t know what had happened to her, said it didn’t hurt badly right away.
“It kind of felt like I got hit by a dodgeball,” said the soon-to-be sixth-grader.
Within a few seconds, Hedstrom put a rag on his daughter’s forehead before he gently laid her on the ground. His wife had already called 911 and help was on the way. Once she was lying down, Hedstrom said he removed the rag to look at the wound. That is when he realized the seriousness of the injury, because he could see her skull.
As a wrestling coach, Hedstrom used his concussion training to assess his daughter’s condition. Amazingly, he said, she did very well.
When the Kensington first responders showed up within a few minutes, they tended to Skylar and got the situation under control, Hedstrom said.
“Even though she was scared, Skylar was pretty calm and only cried a little bit,” he said. “She’s a strong little woman and such an impressive little girl.”
Kensington Fire Chief Joey Nessman, who was at the scene of the Skylar’s accident, was impressed with Skylar’s demeanor and described her as calm and a good patient.
“I knew it wasn’t life-threatening. She was extremely, extremely lucky. It could have been worse,” Nessman said. “The concern was, this poor girl, what’s going to happen? But she was so grown up. For a 10-year-old, she acted very grown up.”
Firefighters and first responders give teddy bears to children who are involved in an emergency call. Skylar received one with a basketball jersey, Nessman said, because it seemed more fitting than the one with a motorcycle vest.
Little did he know how much Skylar loves playing basketball and that she’s a member of the traveling basketball team.
Skylar, who remembers that she did get a headache right away, thought the ambulance ride was “pretty cool.” She also thought the teddy bear wearing a basketball jersey that she received from the first responders was pretty cool, too.
While riding in the ambulance, Hedstrom said his daughter didn’t let go of the teddy bear or his hand. She doesn’t often let him hold her hand, but he said with a wide grin, “That day she did.”
Doctors assessed Skyler at an Alexandria hospital before she was sent to Fargo, where she was immediately taken to the trauma center for care by a pediatric neurosurgeon and a cranial doctor because her skull was fractured.
“The cranial doctor glued it back together,” Hedstrom said. “That’s what he told me. He said he glued it together.”
The doctor who stitched up Skylar’s face told Hedstrom that when he was done, they would have to look hard to see her scar. In all, Skylar came away with about 200 stitches, but less than 30 were on the outside of her face. Her eyes were a little black and blue, her face ended up being a little swollen and she had a headache, but that was about all, Hedstrom said.
The incident happened at about 6 p.m. and by the same time the next day, Hedstrom and his daughter were back home in Hoffman.
Her outside stitches were removed the following Friday, with the inside ones dissolving on their own. Skylar did have to lie low for a few days and couldn’t participate in basketball camp, but she will get to play softball. However, she traded in her regular helmet for one that includes a mask, her dad said.
Although Hedstrom said the accident was “totally on me,” and he feels responsible, he said he doesn’t feel guilty.
“I’m just happy she’s alive,” he said. “This could’ve been so much worse.”
He said he will now be the guy who checks his lawn before he starts mowing, and he couldn’t stress enough that everyone should do the same.
“Be the person who checks the tall grass,” he stated. “Be the person who picks up sticks. Be that person. Be safe.”