Journal

An unexpected gift in the midst of darkness

Written by Tiffany Verzal

*Note:  This is a continued post from Tiffany Verzal.  Click to read part 1 and part 2 of the trial*

I’m sure that I have said this a thousand times, but we have been so fortunate to see God’s hand in so many aspects of this tragedy.  One of those times happened right after we arrived in Lincoln after the trial.

While we were enduring the last part of our awful journey in College Station, something amazing was happening in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Cara Whitney, the “better half” of Dan Whitney (who is better known as comedian Larry the Cable Guy), watched a video about Alexis and decided to tour Madonna.  After that tour they chose to donate $1.2 million dollars to Madonna Rehabilitation hospital.  That money helped build the first free standing children’s rehabilitation hospital in the country, right here in Lincoln, Nebraska!

We didn’t know that any of that had happened.  But when we arrived at therapy for Alexis the day after the trial, we got a call from Madonna’s CEO.  She shared the amazing news with us, and asked if we would want to meet Larry the Cable Guy and his family.

During one of the lowest points in our lives, we had some news that made us smile.  But there was nothing that could have prepared us for what was going to happen next.

Alexis was in pool therapy, and Larry and his family walked in.  Their kids played with Alexis and we had a chance to talk with them.  We walked around the hospital a little bit, and joked about the name of the new hospital.  We thought “The Git-R-Done” hospital would be the perfect name.  However, the joking stopped, and they told us that they were naming the hospital after Alexis.

It was the last thing that we expected and we were shocked.  We were also drained emotionally from the month-long trial that had just finished.

It was special, it was heartwarming, and it lifted our spirits.

It was a gift.

It’s taken me two years to fully understand and appreciate what the Whitney’s did, because naming the hospital ended up being so much more than a name and a picture at the entrance.

They gave us the gift of hope and happiness.  What they did erased us having to even think or talk about the trial.  What people wanted to talk about was the hospital.  Their family helped our hearts heal because they gave us a reason and a reminder that God has a plan.  It wasn’t the money, it was the selfless gesture.  I know I will never be able to repay to them.

In December, 2009 the Git-R-Done Foundation announced the donation at a press conference held at Madonna.

Here is the speech Brandon gave the day of the press conference:

 

There are few things that compare to the pain a parent feels when their child is injured or ill. Since Alexis was hurt 20 months ago, my wife Tiffany and I have dealt with our pain through faith- which has told us that every circumstance, no matter how dark, happens for a reason.

Today, that reason is abundantly clear.

There are no words to express the appreciation we have for Dan and his family on this day. We hope it is understood that this is not only a gift to Madonna- but to the entire state of Nebraska and to children all over the country. Thousands of children will be given a chance to recover from debilitating injuries and illness, the way Alexis has, because of this donation.

The fact that it is being built because of the generosity of a Nebraska native, whose incredible determination and work ethic have gotten him where he is, should make the people of this state even more proud.

It’s impossible to comprehend the far reaching effect of this facility on lives for many, many years to come. Working in rehabilitation with children is a daily challenge. Oftentimes the child is unable to communicate their wants and needs, meaning the therapists have to use their talents to figure out what works. It could be a certain toy, a piece of rehab equipment or even the therapy environment that causes a spark in an injured child- and gets them on the road to recovery. This facility will give every child that comes through these doors the opportunity to have that spark, and to get better.  Madonna is home to some of the most talented pediatric therapists in the country. We are also thrilled they will have the best facility and tools to practice their craft.

We are so humbled by the decision to name this facility after Alexis. After going to rehab here five days a week for over a year and a half, a life with constant rehabilitation is the only life Alexis knows. There will be many challenges in the years to come as she becomes cognizant of her handicaps and the sad circumstances surrounding what caused them. We are comforted that this hospital will show her how much good has come from her hard work and determination, despite everything she must endure.

One unique aspect to this facility is that its namesake will actually be using it herself. Alexis has a lifetime of therapy ahead of her- so also as her parents- we thank you both for helping her heal. This will certainly be the first of many thanks from parents for how you have helped their children recover.

We also believe that Alexis’ name is a mere representation of the spirit of so many children- past and present- that have and are recovering here. This hospital will be named after Alexis, but also Jeremy, Derek, Signe, and Grace. Hope, Ashley, Adam, Caleb, and Tonya. Brady, Kolden, Hailey, Carson, Chase, Mandy, and so many more. We hope they share the same pride we do in what will soon be built.

We have a plaque in our house that reads- “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.” Dan & Cara- thank you for giving children facing the most difficult of circumstances, the opportunity to dance in the rain- right here at Madonna- for many, many years to come.

Please take a moment to visit the Git-R-Done Foundation, and take a moment to donate if you have something to spare.  They are quietly doing amazing things to help kids across the country.

Thank you Larry the Cable Guy, Cara, and the Git-R-Done Foundation, for giving purpose to something that is hard to ever make sense of.

If I could go back and take away Alexis’ brain injury would I do it?  I certainly would, what she has to deal with every day is tragic.

But the amount of good that has come out of a horrible event on April 3, 2008 certainly makes you believe God has a plan- no matter how difficult a plan that might be.

About the author

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.

11 Comments

  • So beautifully written. It brought tears to my eyes. You and your family are such an inspiration; to find the good that could from such a tragic event.

  • As a mother of an adopted son who has also suffered a TBI at the hands of his birth parents,your story means a lot to me. We too,have had the privilege of going to Madonna for therapy over the years. (during this Same time as well)It’s an amazing facility with incredible people. Yes,God I amazing.

  • I got the privilege to hear Tiffany and Brandon speak at the Nebraska Regional Head Start conference in Grand Island last year. What an aweful experience to go through. I cannot imagine having to deal with everything they have, but with all the bad came some amazing parents that are reaching out and touching lives all over the country! They are sharing a very scary experience that no one ever wishes to have happen but with that they are informing people of something that is not well-known or talked about alot. Also they are advocating for Alexis and other children suffering from TBIs. Keep it up Brandon and Tiffany! You are truely a blessing to many people!

  • Brandon, Tiffany, and Alexis…..way to go.! Your speech has brought tears to my eyes and I’m a guy that’s 57 years old….and we’re not supposed to cry, right???? We’ve all been through a lot……but you, Tiffany and Alexis make my accident and brain injury (and subsequent recovery) seem like a broken fingernail compared to your “trials”.
    You guys are an inspiration to everyone in the world. Keep up the great work and “keep the spirit”!!
    As Always,
    Gary Hausmann

  • This has me bawling my eyes out. I could never understand what you have gone through, and knowing what one family has done for so many others is amazing. I’m happy she made it through this awful experience alive. I just.. There are no words to describe how this has made me feel. I wish you all the best and pray for more blessings to come your way.

  • I was just going through my Facebook posts from friends and glanced at this. What a horrible thing for a child and the child’s family to experience. And despite everything your faith has remained strong and God provided Alexis and many other children with an amazing gift. Your story has touched me and I will keep your family in my prayers and most definitely will be donating to the Git-R-Done Foundation. May God continue to watch over little Alexis always.

  • Brought tears to my eyes. Prayers and hugs for u. It makes my heart hurt to read stuff like that. I hate it when people hurt kids it makes me angry. That dacare should have gotten shut down. And lost liscens. I a mom of 2 and o constanly worry, bc of how cruel ppl can be. Keep,that beautiful baby close to u. God bless u all!