The mother was «in tears» after her three-year-old child lost a foot in a lawnmower accident, but the child reassured her that everything would be okay.

When Keirsten Marsico first saw her little Joey after a lawnmower accident resulted in the amputation of his left foot, he reassured her that everything would be alright. «After he came out of surgery that night, I was naturally in tears, and he took my face in his hands and said, ‘Mom, what’s wrong?'» Marsico recounted to PEOPLE. «I just said, ‘I’m really sad, my little one.'»

On Thursday, May 9, Joey, who was just weeks away from his fourth birthday, watched his grandfather Mark DeLuca mow the lawn outside their home in Whitehall, New York. According to Keirsten, Joey, her «active little boy,» loves tractors and mowing. «He loves to help and ran behind my father who was on the lawnmower. Before my mother could reach him, my father backed up, and everything happened at once,» Keirsten recalled. «It just all came together and led to it happening.»

She continued, «It’s been hard on all of us, but my parents feel very bad, and my dad especially feels bad.» According to the family, DeLuca quickly applied a tourniquet, likely saving his grandson’s life. Joey was airlifted to Boston Children’s Hospital where he underwent a series of foot surgeries, ultimately resulting in the decision to amputate.

During his challenging recovery, Joey charmed his nurses and doctors, impressing his family and friends with his unusually mature attitude and optimism. «He’s a very strong boy,» said Keirsten, adding, «It’s almost like talking to a teenager… He’s just very level-headed.»

His father, Joseph, remarked, «He’s always been like that. He’s very understanding and understands others’ feelings and how to deal with things and people, and he’s very talkative. His vocabulary is way beyond what it should be for his age.»

During Joey’s nearly month-long hospital stay, the Marsicos, who also have a six-year-old daughter named Gianna, divided responsibilities to adjust to a new normal. «My daughter goes to school, so we’re trying to keep things somewhat normal for her,» explained Keirsten. «She’s autistic, so routine is very helpful for her. My husband and I agreed that maybe one of us should stay home with her.» Keirsten stayed home «so she didn’t leave Joey,» she said about Joseph. «When I left Joey the other day, I cried, and he cried too,» Keirsten recalled. «He wiped the tears from my eyes and said, ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to be sad.’ I said, ‘I know, but I don’t like leaving you alone.'»

Keirsten said the family’s Catholic faith and the realization that it was an unusual accident helped them cope with the experience. «My biggest fear is that people will hear this story and think, ‘Why weren’t they watching him?’ Or, ‘How could they let that happen?'» she admitted.

«But I always have to remind myself that everything happens for a reason. God has a plan for this little boy, and we may not understand it right now, but it’s His plan for him. Whether we understand it or not,» Keirsten said. «So if anyone else were in this situation, I would tell them it was an accident,» she said. «Accidents happen. We can’t control them, and we shouldn’t ask why, because you’ll never know; you’d only blame yourself. We just have to adapt and overcome what happened,» she said. «And we just have to be there for him and stick together as a family.»

On June 5, Joey was discharged from the hospital, nearly a month after the accident, and reunited with his family. He celebrated his fourth birthday earlier in the week. His parents are encouraged by his progress—they say he will soon receive a prosthesis—and marvel at how he can express his feelings and comfort others despite everything. «He’s always been a special little guy,» said Joseph.

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