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Merced boy badly injured by lawn mower

MERCED -- Tye Dutcher, 11, of Merced faces his fourth surgery today in a Sacramento hospital, nearly a week after his leg was badly injured when he was run over by his father's lawn mower.

Dutcher, a fifth-grader at Peterson Elementary School, was airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento after the 5 p.m. accident March 20 at his Merced home. His right foot was amputated at the ankle. Originally listed in critical condition, the boy now is in stable condition.

The boy's parents, Kim and Doug Dutcher, say their son's spirits are high.

"To describe Tye's spirits is overwhelming to us. He has told us that he knows this happened for a reason," the Dutchers said. "Even though he is in pain, he is caring for those around him and knows his experiences will lead others to Christ," his parents said. He is hoping at some time in the future to visit others hospitalized with severe limb injuries.

A blood drive on behalf of the Dutchers has been established by Blood Source of Merced and a trust fund has been set up in the boy's name at Yosemite Church.

The boy's pediatric surgical team is working with Children's Shriners Hospital orthopedic team. He will be transferred to the Shriners hospital to be fit with a prosthetic foot.

His foot initially was amputated at the ankle; a surgery on Monday amputated above the right ankle and a later surgery checked for infection and cleaned the wounds. He has two severe lacerations on the same leg that will need skin grafting.

"Tye is doing better each day. The nurses comment on what a great patient he is for such a traumatic injury. He is very excited that he will be able to have a waterproof prosthetic so he can continue to swim and play water polo," his parents said.

Family friend Lynn Fitzpatrick of Livermore said Tye was trying to goof around like his three older brothers do. He came outside with a rubber band gun and snuck up behind his father on the riding lawn mower. His dad had just reached the edge of the lawn when he put the mower in reverse. Tye was caught by surprise and was pushed down, with his bare foot caught underneath the mower.

The boy's parents say it is unknown just how soon he can come home but he could be released by the middle of next week.

The boy's older brother, Chad, 19, said this wasn't the first time Tye has encountered a hurdle of this magnitude. When he was born Oct. 15, 1996 he had a diaphragmatic hernia, a rare medical condition. Tye is the youngest of five children, three older brothers and a sister.

The blood drive for Tye Dutcher will have eight sessions, beginning Saturday and concluding May 2 at Buhach Colony High School. Jaime Suarez, Blood Source manager for Merced County, said about 60 people who haven't contributed blood since about 1994 have come forward to help the Dutcher family and the response to the Dutcher appeal has been strong.

Suarez said contributing to the Dutcher blood drive will help the organization replenish the blood supply and keep blood on the shelves. Family friend Christin Mitchell said whatever blood is donated will go to him and to his expenses. Blood costs about $100 a pint.

Fitzpatrick said the trust fund in the Dutchers' name is at Yosemite Church, 2230 E. Yosemite Ave., Merced.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

Blood drives

Eight blood drives will be held to support Tye Dutcher through May 2. For more information, call (209) 724-0428.

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