Featured Journal

Brain Injury vs. the Verzals

Written by Tiffany Verzal

Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

Oh the endurance my husband has shown over the last five years.  Even in the middle of the night, he gets up.  We’ve tried so many ways…nothing ever works quite right.  Neither one of us is getting the satisfaction we need.  But today I gave in.  The line has been drawn, and I am not bending this time.

I just sucked it up and paid $250 to sleep with my husband.

I didn’t pay in cash.  I didn’t even get a nice hotel room.

I dropped a cool $250 on toys.  Yeah, yeah, yeah…the toys.

Sleep for Alexis is a battle.  It’s an all-out war every night.  Brain injury vs. the Verzal family.  For five years, brain injury wins nine times out of ten.  It’s been going on since the day she came out of her coma.  For two days she didn’t sleep.  She just screamed.  We didn’t sleep either, until a nurse made us go into another ICU room and sleep, and she promised to hold Alexis until the morning.

In the early days of her injury, she could be awake for 48-hours at a time.  We took advantage of the time and did extra therapy.  We walked the halls of Madonna so much that the overnight security guard knew us by name.  The sleep deprivation was hard, but we figured out that no sleep usually meant some miraculous healing was happening.  She was blind for two months, and after one sleepless night, her eyes started to work again.  It was enough motivation.

The transition from hospital to home was a rough one.  I was spending the entire day at therapy with Alexis (most of the time she was screaming) and Brandon was at home trying to get our business going.  By the time Alexis and I came home for the day, I was done and Brandon spent the majority of the night trying to get Alexis comfortable.  We usually drove around until 11:30 p.m. and then Alexis was usually up by 3:30 a.m.   I tried to help Brandon out, but I failed miserably.

As time went on and we got medications worked out, sleep got a little bit better.  But we let her sleep with us.  The thing about Alexis and sleeping is that on a scale of 1-10 of body functionality in the middle of the night, she’s probably a 3. She can’t sit up well, her eyes don’t work, and the tone in her right arm makes it impossible for her to get comfortable.  She gets tangled up in sheets, her right hand gets caught in her hair, and she can’t even flip over.  So Brandon has come accustomed to flipping her over and holding her right hand most of the night.  If I had to guess, I bet Alexis gets between three and five hours of sleep each night, and always interrupted sleep even at that.

We’ve tried everything to get her to sleep on her own.  We’ve done special sheets, stuffed animals, tents, every type of night light, had a bed on the floor in our room, black out curtains, crib vibrators, changed her room, painted her room, soothing sleep sounds, natural sleep remedies, I feel like we have tried it all.  All she wants to do is sleep with us…uh….I mean sleep beside Brandon.

I don’t blame her.  If I spent most of the night awake, I would want someone there beside me too, especially if I was five-years-old.  If I was partially paralyzed, I would want someone to help me get comfortable.  If I knew that my body didn’t work and I got scared and I couldn’t get to my parents, I would want them beside me.  It makes sense.

But she’s getting big.  None of us are sleeping well anymore.  And to be honest, and a little selfish…I miss lying beside my husband.  So we are trying this again.  This time we pulled out the big guns.  A load of toys worthy of a Christmas and Birthday combined.  They are all wrapped up, in her room.  If she can make it the night without one of us sleeping with her or her coming into our bed, BOOM, toy!

Here’s a little snapshot breakdown of how things went down on Monday night.  I’ll let you know how this all goes over the next couple of weeks…

alexis sleep 007

alexis sleep 031

alexis sleep 036

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.

9 Comments

  • Bless her little heart! Those pictures tug at my heart strings! But you guys are doing the right thing. Stay strong, hold your ground and you will all pull through this. Sending prayers and blessings your way! 🙂

  • Tiff – we do whatever it takes for our kiddos to be comfortable and happy. Our youngest typically has to fall asleep in bed with us, then I have to move him to his crib…I rearranged his room hoping that he would want to sleep in his big-boy bed, but when he wakes up in it from a nap (or at night) we have a fit because he’s not a fan. He became accustomed to falling asleep with daddy (aren’t boys supposed to be a “mommy’s boy”?) when he was sick with ear infection and influenza, that he no longer can fall asleep in his own bed. I understand your pain…I hope it gets better. Sending you hugs and some comforting vibes for the little missy! She’s growing up so fast, I can’t believe it!

  • The wrapping paper alone should be a motivator. What can be beneath that special paper. Just has to be something “GOOD”. Good luck, Alexis will make it through. She has a knack for pulling through!!!!

  • There is so much you deal with that I didn’t have a clue about or even think of. Bless your hearts and Alexis’, too. I’m praying for sleep for everyone and for Alexis’ comfort, peace and a great night’s sleep in her own bed. If the picture of her crying breaks my heart, I can’t imagine what it does to yours – praying!!!

  • Tiffany, you and your husband are amazingly strong parents. I am always amazed at your positive attitude when I read you blog. God has given you and your husband an amazing gift and you are doing exactly what He wants you to do with it. Thank you for being an inspiration for me to be a better mother!

  • As always, sending much love and strength. We have a tough sleeper, too. Our son, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, has sleep apnea, but there’s not much we can do about it until he has his next surgery. It makes for some rough days doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing your story, Tiff!

  • Tiffany…you and Brandon will be in my prayers in the days to come. We will be waiting for updates! Please give our love to Alexis, too, and tell her we are supporting her!