Nicky Eiken and her son, Kale, taken about three weeks after the sledding accident at Mabel’s Tank Park. Nicky reports that her son is healing very well and has resumed school and his normal routine. DAVID STOEGER/NEWS RECORD
Nicky Eiken and her son, Kale, taken about three weeks after the sledding accident at Mabel’s Tank Park. Nicky reports that her son is healing very well and has resumed school and his normal routine. DAVID STOEGER/NEWS RECORD
Four-year-old Kale Eiken and his parents, Bob and Nicky Eiken, feel very lucky. They say a sledding accident at Mabel's Veterans Memorial Park, along County Road 34, could have been a lot worse.

"He was so, so lucky that he didn't hit an eye or get a brain injury," explained Nicky Eiken.

At about 4 p.m. on Dec. 28, 2013, the family was enjoying sledding at the park when Kale went down the hill and collided with an electrical box attached to a light pole at the park.

"Ben and I both could not believe that (it) just happened," Nicky continued. "It was the absolute worst feeling for both of us. We felt responsible that we just sent him down the hill with no protection."

Kale had suffered serious facial lacerations to his face and forehead, and was taken by his parents to Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah. He was initially treated in Decorah and then was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to see a specialist. There he received over 100 stiches to help heal his wounds.

"But at the same time (we were) so thankful," Nicky continued. "Once we got up to Saint Marys (Hospital) and they told us that he is so lucky that everything was still intact even though it looked like something out of a horror film to us...he could have been in a coma or worse for how hard he hit that (electrical box)."

The irony of the incident, Nicky said, is how she referred to the possible danger just before the collision happened. "He dove on his sled face first...and as he's going down, Ben was standing next to me (and I commented) 'it's amazing no one has ever hit that pole,' but (then) he hit the pole - the one time I said that..."

Nicky reports that Kale has been healing well since the accident, but it remains to be seen if he will have any lasting scarring from the accident. "They are concerned about some scarring...but the amazing powers of healing being that he is a 4-year-old boy. We won't know exactly what it (the injury) is going to look like - they told us eight months to a year. But we're not even concerned about that now.... They (the doctors) are amazed with how everything has lined back up."

Nicky reported that since the accident, Kale has resumed a normal routine and is back attending preschool and is in good spirits.

City council discussion

Mabel City Council member Terry Torkelson brought up the topic of safety at the city park in reference to Kale's accident during the council meeting on Jan. 8.

"I would feel bad if another kid did that again," Torkelson told the council.

Other possible safety issues at the park were also discussed. "At the 'tank park' - you've got the tank and there's kids climbing on that tank. Are we liable if they fall of that tank?" asked council member Kristen Wyffels.

Council member Susan Amunrud responded by saying, "The playground equipment there is dangerous enough.... My little nephew hit one of those 'horn things' (at the playground) and it almost took the feet out from under him."

The discussion then centered on how a community can never create a completely danger-free environment for children. "You can't prevent everything," added Wyffels.

"If we can fix a hazard without spending a lot of money and it is a simple thing that will help somebody, we can do that," Torkelson added. "If we can do something that is just simple we should just do that for humanity purposes."

Despite the talk about safety at the city council, Nicky said she has no ill feelings toward the city regarding the park's safety or the accident. "Immediately, when I looked down that hill (and at the pole), I thought, wow, that is something that raises red flags to me. But you can go anywhere and see something like that. I don't blame the city at all because there is always going to be something that a kid is going to trip on or fall off of."

"You can always take more precautions or wrap your kids in bubble wrap - but you just can't be like that," she added. "Accidents are going to happen. We are just glad ours was not any worse than what it was."

Current action

Chuck Dahl, who works for Mabel's Public Works Department, said he has placed a number of straw bales around the light poles at the Veterans Memorial Park as a way to protect children and families who use the hill for sledding.

"They (the city council) just asked if we could put some straw bales there (so) we found some and put some there," Da