A mother in Lake Echo is warning parents with small children to take extra precautions around treadmills after her son suffered serious burns to his leg getting caught between the wall and the treadmill belt.
Vicki Swan said her five-year-old son, Emerson, was visiting relatives in October without his parents.
Emerson and his cousins were in the basement when he got trapped between the wall and the moving belt of a treadmill. His screams brought the adults to the basement in less than a minute, but he ended up with third-degree burns on his right leg from the friction of the running treadmill.
Swan rushed to the IWK Health Centre thinking her son may have had "some bumps and bruises." She was shocked to discover the burns on his leg.
Dr. Michael Bezuhly, a pediatric plastic surgeon at the IWK Health Centre, said he deals with two to three similar cases each year.
"It's like taking a belt sander and basically having that grind down the skin," he told CBC News.
"It's a pretty gruesome thing when it happens."
Swan said her son missed a month of school as he recovered from his skin graft surgery.
"He was allowed to walk before his surgery. After the graft, he was not able to walk in order to give the new skin a chance to heal. We had a wheelchair at home for him," she said.
"The skin is healing. He has to wear a pressure sock for the next year to year and a half."
Injury prevention experts say if a treadmill's safety key is removed, it can't be turned on — even if the machine is plugged in.
Swan said since her son's accident, she's spoken to therapists, firefighters and other parents who told her this type of accident happens more often than people realize.
Her son likely didn't know what the treadmill was when he first saw it, she said, because the Swan family doesn't own one.
"They're just really not aware of what can happen. If you have children who are coming to your home, it's just something to be aware of, maybe put that extra effort in to making sure that it's a safe environment," Swan said.
Meanwhile, Emerson has talked to his class about the dangers of treadmills.
"Tell them if they see a treadmill they could get the same hurt as me," he said.