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The legacy of a girl called Carly Pie

Routine surgery, people call it. Kids get their tonsils out all the time. It's practically a medical rite of passage, like the first cast on your arm, or a couple of stitches in the emergency room.

In fall 2010, a girl named Carly Jane Liptak went in for one of the most common surgical procedures a child can get, a tonsillectomy, at Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor. The healthy 12-year-old who loved softball and her little sister Riley, the girl whose family called her "Pie" for as long as anyone can remember, didn't survive.

This week, her parents, Elisa and Kevin Liptak, filed a medical negligence suit against the hospital, the doctor and others. A Mease spokeswoman declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

"The lawsuit," says Carly's mom, "is the last place I would want to be."

If the overused phrase "a parent's worst nightmare" fits anywhere, it's here, in a grieving family surviving in the aftermath. But in a nightmare is also a legacy. Things live on because of Carly.

That's lives on, literally.

She embraced any sport, her father says, but she especially loved softball. At bat, her mother says, "she had the most confidence in the world."

This is what she wrote in an essay six months before she died: My lifetime goal is to be a professional softball player because you have friends that are so close to you they could be sisters and, when you have an unbelievable talent like I do you should put it in a good direction and follow your dreams.

The last photo of her was taken by her dad before she went into surgery and her parents went to the cafeteria to wait for what should have been a quick procedure. She was a little scared, but smiling.

After something went horribly wrong, they kept her heart beating for three days, her parents say. Teams of kids came to say goodbye. Afterward, people wanted to do something, anything, to help.

A friend suggested a memorial fund. It became the Carly J. "Pie" Liptak Foundation "to enrich the lives of girls and young ladies" through softball and "the principles of teamwork, community and acts of kindness."

They donated to the Oldsmar Little League where she played so two other girls can, too, her parents say. A donation also went to the booster club of the high school Carly would have attended. And as improbable as it sounds, her name will live in Kenya.

Relatives up North donated money for a medical facility there, and ground is broken for the Carly "Pie" Liptak Memorial Clinic, to help orphaned and underprivileged children.

But an even bigger legacy may be life, not to be too dramatic about it. Two lives. Carly's kidneys went to two different women who needed them. One wrote to the family.

"She says in her letter, 'Thanks for saving this life,' " Carly's mom says. "I think certain words are chosen particularly sometimes. She didn't use 'my,' she used 'this.' I thought it was kind of amazing."

Carly's little sister is growing up. She's 12 now, Carly's age, a strong little girl protective of her sister's things. The two had separate bedrooms but rarely spent a night apart. They talked about being in each other's weddings.

Carly isn't there to bounce her ball against the garage door and dent it, or eat all the cookie dough. "Just," her mother says, "everything." But her name lives on, and that has to be something.

The legacy of a girl called Carly Pie 05/04/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 4, 2012 10:44pm]
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