BRANDON — The little girl sits on an overstuffed chair, tracing little circles around the eyes of her Thomas the Tank Engine pillow. Casts have recently come off both arms, which, like many other bones in her body, were broken in a head-on collision.
Summer Moll is 4. Last month she was riding her new, bigger-than-before bicycle with training wheels, playing at the YMCA and at day care.
Now, 12 pins hold her tiny legs together beneath a SpongeBob SquarePants blanket. Her grandparents, Art and Tammy Rosian, care for her in their home. Every day, they clean the pins with a mixture of peroxide and water.
"The hardest part is seeing her discomfort," said Tammy Rosian, 47.
On Sept. 10, Cheryl Maria Riemann of Ruskin, a driver going the wrong way on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, smashed head-on into Summer and her mother, Jennifer O'Boyle, Rosian's daughter. O'Boyle died at the scene.
Riemann, 25, faces vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter and other charges.
Summer hovered for weeks at Tampa General Hospital in critical condition, her skull fractured, both forearms broken, along with a thigh, a knee and ankle. Doctors inserted a plate in her skull to manage the swelling.
Then she began to recover.
Apart from the pins, the scrapes still visible on her face and arms, and a jagged line of stitches in her scalp, Summer bears internal scars. She chirps and whispers in frequent bursts. Sometimes she says her name or indicates something she wants. Weeks with tubes down her throat have bruised her vocal cords, her grandmother said.
And Summer is now wary of touch. "With all of the pain she has gone through," Art Rosian said, "I think subconsciously every time someone touches her she thinks they are hurting her."
Medical bills have already hit about $500,000, he said. He's waiting for word from an insurance provider, but expects the ongoing costs to be staggering.
To help with that, a group of well-wishers is hosting a fundraiser tonight on her behalf, sponsored by Success 101, a motivational group.
She will enter the hospital soon for up to three months of rehabilitation. But another battle is taking shape. Her father, Joshua Moll, absent for three years, wants custody. The couple never married, but had a seven-year relationship.
Rosian was granted temporary custody pending Summer's return to rehabilitative care, said Jennifer Reh, her attorney.
"We continue to believe that the father has unilaterally and voluntarily not been involved in this child's life," Reh said.
Both Moll and his family law attorney, Ted Rechel, acknowledged that except for a few "gifts,'' Moll did not pay child support.
Moll said he and O'Boyle agreed that he would pay down a debt they had accrued instead of paying child support.
Mediation is set for November.
Reh will ask that "primary residential care" rights be given to Rosian, including the major decisions about Summer's care, with significant involvement given to Summer's father, as long as he shows consistency.
"Hopefully he's not attempting to capitalize on the situation and will stay involved," Reh said.
Moll has retained a personal injury attorney with hopes of recovering damages. "I don't care about the money," he said. "I just want to make sure her medical bills get paid."
Lost in the everyday care and looming custody fight over Summer is a critical question: Just how much does she know?
They haven't discussed the accident or told Summer that her mother is gone, Rosian said. But recently, Rosian tried putting a photo of O'Boyle in a curio cabinet along with her daughter's ashes, placing them at eye level where Summer usually sits in an overstuffed chair 8 feet away.
That night, Summer tossed and turned with apparent nightmares. Rosian moved the items to the hallway, and peaceful sleep returned.