In a single shocking moment time can stand still and threaten to change your life forever. July 8, 2011 is a day the Von Buchler family will never forget because it was a day their lives were turned upside down.
It started as a typical sunny, summer day. The family was outside playing, doing yard work and enjoying the day. In a second, the day turned into a family nightmare when their 3-year-old son Keaton was accidentally backed over with the riding lawnmower.
The blades from the riding lawnmower severed both of the toddler’s feet and completely removed the skin on his left knee and thigh. He was rushed to a nearby emergency room by ambulance where his parents waited, helpless and in fear.
A terrifying fear
“We were terrified of what was going to happen to our son and we became extremely nervous and anxious while we waited at the hospital to hear the outcome,” said Holly Von Buchler, Keaton’s mother. “Keaton was in complete shock and in a lot of pain. He was scared and didn’t understand what was happening. It was a horrifying moment.”
An OrthoIndy trauma surgeon was the orthopedic surgeon on call that day when the Von Buchler family arrived. He immediately rushed in to assess Keaton.
“Originally we were told by our physician that he would most likely need to amputate both of Keaton’s feet,” said Holly. “Signing the amputation papers is something I will never forget.”
After the first surgery, the Von Buchler family, who now had about 10 family members also with them in the waiting room were told that while the trauma surgeon was operating on Keaton he noticed that most of Keaton’s toes were still pink, which was a good sign, and he decided he was going to try and save Keaton’s feet. “We were told he wasn’t in the clear yet, but for the time being, The OrthoIndy surgeon had put pins in Keaton’s feet and only time would tell the outcome,” said Holly.
Keaton stayed in the ICU for three nights before he was transferred to general pediatrics for another 10 nights. During the 14 days at the hospital, Keaton had eight surgeries, which were performed about every 48 hours. During these surgeries pins were put in both his feet and his wounds were cleaned, removing the skin and bones that were not surviving.
Following the hospital stay, for three months, Keaton was in bandages starting from his toes all the way up to his hips. Keaton was also in a wheelchair, which is not ideal for anyone, let alone a child in the summer who wanted to run and play. The Von Buchler family put their usual summer activities on hold and canceled their vacation to focus on Keaton.
“Keaton never once felt sorry for himself and never complained about his situation,” said Holly. “He just stayed positive and found other things to enjoy.”
Keaton still has both of his feet. He is missing about half of the bone structure in his left foot and a few bones in his right foot but he can walk, climb, jump and play like any other kid.
Return to activity and being a kid
Keaton had a long road to recovery but he is doing well. Four years later, aside from the scars and deformities, you would never know anything had happened that day. Keaton is very good at playing soccer and even plays with a travel soccer team. He talks about how he wants to play in the World Cup some day. He also loves playing outside, riding his bike, running, playing basketball, swimming and hiking.
“I believe that Keaton has both of his feet today 100 percent because of our OrthoIndy physician,” said Holly. “Our physician and all his staff were absolutely amazing to work with. It probably would have been ‘easier’ to amputate Keaton’s feet, but our trauma surgeon was determined to try to save them if there was even the slightest chance they would survive.”
Since Keaton’s accident, the Von Buchler’s have been able to go back to their typical busy lifestyle. They enjoy camping as a family and are outside as much as possible.
“Keaton has absolutely no physical limitation and he amazes us every single day. He is our real life superhero,” said Holly. “I can’t help but think that if that OrthoIndy surgeon had not been the surgeon called in that day, it is very likely that wouldn’t be the case.”