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Faith is by her side as girl heals from crash that killed grandparents

Grandparents Webster and Nancy Farnsworth were killed Oct. 21 in Tampa when their minivan was struck by a pickup truck that police say ran a red light. Kaylee, 3, is at Tampa General Hospital with a brain injury.

Courtesy of Syliva Diehl

Grandparents Webster and Nancy Farnsworth were killed Oct. 21 in Tampa when their minivan was struck by a pickup truck that police say ran a red light. Kaylee, 3, is at Tampa General Hospital with a brain injury.

TAMPA — Before the crash, she was a little diva. Queen of the living room talent show.

Kaylee, 3, would sing songs she learned in Bible class, belting them out on a toy microphone. Her voice was pure, and somehow she hit the notes.

She hasn't sung for 11 days. Hasn't spoken at all. The Oct. 21 crash that killed her grandparents, Nancy and Webster Farns­worth, left Kaylee with brain damage.

It could be months before doctors get a clear prognosis.

Kaylee's family believes a full recovery is possible. They pray for it every day, holding hands in the hospital room and sometimes in the cafeteria.

They also pray for strength. It hurts them to see their baby girl in a hospital bed, a swath of her long brown locks shaved for tests.

"It's upsetting," said Kaylee's father, Adam Farnsworth. "But we still have hope."

For Farnsworth and his wife, Crystal, hope comes through their faith. Adam leads a college ministry at Meridian Woods Church of Christ in Tallahassee. He believes God will work good out of this tragedy.

Then there are days like Monday. Inside Kaylee's hospital room, her parents gazed upon the little Strawberry Shortcake costume their daughter planned to wear on Halloween.

She had tried it on several times. "She was so excited," Adam Farnsworth said.

Instead, it hung by her hospital bed.

Kaylee's parents drove to Tampa on Oct. 21 to visit family and attend a baby shower for their second child, a boy, due in December.

On their way back from breakfast that Friday, the group split up. Kaylee went with her grandparents, sitting in a car seat in the back of their minivan.

At the intersection of Hillsborough and Habana avenues, a pickup truck driven by Eric Dewayne McNeil, 42, ran a red light and crashed into the minivan, according to police, who say McNeil had lost consciousness. Detectives are still investigating.

The elder Farnsworths died on impact, but Kaylee survived.

Her wounds are mostly internal, her father said, and they've been healing quickly. The brain injuries are what concern her parents.

Kaylee moved out of the intensive care unit Sunday, and doctors have been weaning her off the sedative medication, her father said. She can open her eyes now but hasn't done much else.

"It's not surprising," he said. "That's part of the healing process."

He said it could be months before Kaylee talks. In the meantime, he and his wife plan to do everything they can to help her recover.

The couple hasn't returned to their Tallahassee home since the crash.

Eventually, Adam plans to return for work, driving down to Tampa whenever he can. Crystal will likely stay with friends or family in the area, he said.

They want to keep Kaylee at Tampa General Hospital because they've heard great things about the hospital's cognitive rehabilitation.

For now, the couple and other family members are by Kaylee's side around the clock. They read Dr. Seuss books and sing her favorite bedtime songs.

The doctors tell them interaction is helpful, even if that's not yet apparent, her father said.

So, as long as she's awake, they keep talking.

"We just have to wait and work, trusting in the rehab," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Memorial service

A memorial service for Tampa couple Nancy and Webster Farnsworth will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Bay Area Church of Christ, 3905 Orange St., Tampa, FL 33550.

How to help

A trust fund has been set up to help pay for Kaylee's care. Checks made out to "Farnsworth Fund" may be mailed to the Farnsworths' church: Meridian Woods Church of Christ, 2870 N Meridian Road, Tallahassee, FL 32312

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Memorial service

A memorial service for Tampa couple Nancy and Webster Farnsworth will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Bay Area Church of Christ, 3905 Orange St., Tampa, FL 33550.

How to help

A trust fund has been set up to help pay for Kaylee's care. Checks made out to "Farnsworth Fund" may be mailed to the Farnsworths' church: Meridian Woods Church of Christ, 2870 N Meridian Road, Tallahassee, FL 32312.

Faith is by her side as girl heals from crash that killed grandparents 11/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 11:54pm]

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