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Loving mother lived for ailing daughter

(ran PC edition)

Cindy Carr's daughter became her inspiration.

When Elizabeth was born five years ago with a pair of serious heart conditions, Carr poured herself into caring for her child, family members said. She nursed Elizabeth through three open-heart surgeries, then decided to become a nurse to help other children.

"She loved her daughter, and her daughter was her life," said Carr's aunt, Anna Legg.

That life ended Saturday night in a car accident in Tampa _ ended just as it was beginning, family members say.

Carr and her daughter were coming home from a friend's birthday party when their 1994 Ford Explorer veered into the Interstate 4 median about 9:52 p.m., near Orient Road, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The green Explorer flipped several times, ejecting Carr and Elizabeth from the vehicle, a patrol report said.

Carr's boyfriend and Elizabeth's father, Dwight Jenkins, was also in the car but was not ejected.

Carr, 35, of 2002 Paul Buchman Highway in Crystal Springs, was pronounced dead at the scene. Elizabeth was taken to Tampa General Hospital with a broken collarbone and injured legs that required surgery.

Jenkins, 35, who shares the Crystal Springs home with Carr and their daughter, also went to Tampa General. He remained there Monday in good condition.

The accident comes a month after Carr started working as a nurse at Pasco Regional Medical Center, and just few months before Elizabeth's next, and hopefully last, heart operation.

"Now this puts it back," said Carr's mother, Marilyn Carr, who lives in Zephyrhills. "(Elizabeth is) going to have physical therapy, and it's possible that will set (the heart operation) back a bit."

Family members were still in shock Monday over Carr's death. No one has broken the news yet to Elizabeth, who remains in fair condition at the hospital.

"She doesn't know her Mommy's dead," Marilyn Carr said.

Carr was born in Charleston, W.Va., to a family with four brothers and one sister. She graduated from high school, then moved to Florida with her family.

When Elizabeth was born, doctors found a pair of heart problems. One of her heart's inner walls has a hole that allows oxygen-depleted blood from one chamber to mix with oxygen-rich blood in another chamber. That means some of her blood is pumped out to her organs without loading up on oxygen from her lungs, and her tissues don't get as much oxygen as they need.

On top of that, Elizabeth has a second condition that prevents the valves in her heart from opening and closing properly, her grandmother said.

The girl's first heart surgery came when she was just 6 days old. Subsequent surgeries have tried to correct the problem, but another operation was planned for this summer.

Carr tried to give her daughter a normal life, family members said. The two rode bikes and jumped on the back yard trampoline together. The young girl is even a cheerleader at her school, the Heritage Academy.

Carr received her nursing degree in 2001 from Pasco-Hernando Community College. With Elizabeth in school, Carr started working at the hospital last month. She hoped to someday move from the surgical floor to pediatrics, to help other children like Elizabeth, Marilyn Carr said.

"She was a very giving person," Legg said. "She loved helping people."

A viewing will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Oakley Funeral Home, 36327 State Road 54 in Zephyrhills. A funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the same place.

_ Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at 352-521-5757 ext. 23 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 23. Her e-mail address is bhallsptimes.com.

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