Friends Rally To Help Family Through Double Tragedy

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Co-workers couldn't help but catch Brenda and Sean Kelsey's excitement at the impending arrival of their second child, a little girl.

Cassandra Taylor, who got to know the family while working with Brenda at Architect One, says the couple had code names for their babies to keep the real name secret until after the birth.

"We heard all about 'Pumpkin Spice,'" Taylor said.

But when Brenda was in labor September 3rd, something went horribly wrong. Cassandra says doctors know what it was "something catastrophic," but will probably never know exactly what happened.

Brenda was rushed to ICU, having suffered a stroke. Little Rebecca went to the NICU, unable to breath. In the days that followed, mother and daughter would meet twice.

"Beautiful and tragic," is how Cassandra describes witnessing the encounters. "You could see the love."

At just six-days old, Rebecca passed away.

Now, friends are rallying to help the family move forward. With two-year-old son Oliver and husband Sean at her side, Brenda is undergoing rehab at a facility in Nebraska. Cassandra says Brenda has recovered most of her speaking ability and her mind is sharp, with just a few lingering memory problems. Physically, she is working to regain the use of her left side. Cassandra says the goal is to discharge her November 12th.

Brenda will likely come home in a wheelchair, Cassandra said, "but hopefully not for long."

An aunt who planned to move is giving the family her house. Friends are raising money to add a ramp and make other wheelchair-accessible renovations. They're also packing, cleaning and prepping the family's current house for sale.

As to why they are making such an effort, Cassandra says Brenda and Sean are always the first to jump in when someone needs help.

"This is the least I can do for them," she said.

Brenda and Sean are active in the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce's Fast Forward group for young professionals through their employers, Architect One and Bartlett and West. The group is holding a benefit concert for them Wednesday at Uncle Bo's in the downtown Ramada. Doors open at 5:30 pm with the show starting at 6:30 pm. A portion of the $15 ticket price will go to the Kelsey family.

People also can get updates on Brenda's progress and make donations online by clicking this link.