Mom Was 'in Tears' After 3-Year-Old Lost Foot in Lawn Mower Accident, but He Told Her It Would All Be Okay

“He's a very strong kid,” Keirsten Marsico says of son Joey

<p>Keirsten Marsico</p> Joey Marsico

Keirsten Marsico

Joey Marsico

When Keirsten Marsico saw her young son Joey for the first time after a lawn mower accident resulted in the amputation of his left foot, he told her it was all going to be okay.

“[After] he came out of surgery that night, I was of course in tears and he just kind of took my head in his hands and he said, ‘Mommy, what's wrong?’ “ Marsico tells PEOPLE. “I just said, ‘I'm really sad, buddy.’ ”

On Thursday, May 9, Joey, who was just weeks away from his fourth birthday, was watching his grandfather Mark DeLuca mow the lawn outside his family's Whitehall, New York, home when he made an innocent, split-second decision that put him in harm's way.

“He really loves tractors and he likes to mow the lawn,” Keirsten says about her “active little boy," the younger of her two kids.

“He likes to help, and he ran up behind my dad who was on the riding lawn mower. And before my mom could get to him, my dad was putting it in reverse and everything just happened all at once," Keirsten recalls. "It was just — everything fell into place that caused it to happen the way that it did.”

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She continues, “It's been hard on all of us, but my parents just feel awful and my dad, he feels terrible.

According to the family, DeLuca quickly applied a tourniquet that likely saved his grandson’s life and Joey was airlifted to Boston Children’s Hospital where he underwent a series of surgeries on his foot, including the decision to amputate.

Through his difficult recovery, however, Joey has charmed his nurses and doctors and wowed his family and friends with his unusually mature perspective — not to mention an upbeat outlook.

“He's a very strong kid,” Keirsten says, adding, “It's almost like talking to a teenager. ... He's just very well-adjusted.”

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<p>Keirsten Marsico</p>

Keirsten Marsico

His dad, Joseph, says that “he's always been that way. Just very understanding and understands people's emotions and how to cope with things and other people and just very vocal. His vocabulary is way beyond what [he] should be able to use.”

Throughout Joey's nearly monthlong stay in the hospital, the Marsicos — who also share a 6-year-old daughter, Gianna — split duties as they managed a new normal.

“My daughter has school, so we're trying to make things kind of normal for her,” Keirsten says. “She's on the autism spectrum, so routine is really helpful for her. My husband and I agreed that maybe one of us should be home with her."

Keirsten stayed home, "and [so] he has not left Joey's side,” she says of Joseph.

“The other day when I was leaving Joey, I cried and he just did it again," Keirsten says. "He wiped my tears away from my eyes and he said, 'It's okay, you don't have to be sad.' I said, 'I know, but I don't like leaving you.' ”

Keirsten says the family’s Catholic faith — and the knowledge that this was a freak accident — have helped get them through the experience.

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“My worst fear is people hearing about this story and thinking, ‘Why weren't they watching him?' Or, 'How could they let this happen?’ And that is honestly something that I, as his mom, have thought about," she admits.

But "I just have to keep telling myself that all this is happening for a reason. For us, God has a plan for this little boy and it's not something that we understand right now, but this is his plan for him. Whether we understand it or not," Keirsten says.

"So really, if somebody else was in this situation, I would tell them it's an accident," she says. "Accidents happen. We can't control it and don't ask why, because you'll never know, you'll just beat yourself up."

"We just have to kind of adapt and overcome what's happening," she says. "And we just have to be there for him and be together as a family.”

On June 5, Joey was discharged from the hospital, returning home to his family nearly a month since the accident. He turned 4 earlier this week.

His parents are encouraged about his progress — they say he’ll soon be fitted with a prosthesis — and marvel at how, through it all, he has been able to articulate his emotions and soothe others.

“He's just always been a special little guy,” Joseph says.

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