Written By:  Tiffany Verzal @ Stand with Faith

Being a mom to Alexis, and with her being our only child, I feel like I live in this really weird world that is a combination of normal kindergarten behavior, brain injury issues, and watching her do things for the first time that she would have done years ago if she didn’t have an injury.

In some ways, I feel like the mom of a baby again. Seriously. I can’t stop gushing about everything she has been doing lately. Yesterday, we went to Target and she didn’t want to ride in the cart, and she didn’t want to walk in her walker.

Yes, she wanted to shop on her own two legs!

We knew it would be a slow shopping trip, but it was totally worth it! She hung on to the side of the cart and grabbed things like strawberry-milk drinking straws, fruit snacks, and super sugary cereal with a cartoon character on the front. You know, normal kid things. She threw them into the cart and was so proud she was doing her own shopping. She tried to grab a 3-pound bag of mozzarella cheese “to have for lunch at school.” It was hilarious. I smiled the entire time.

I am so glad to enjoy those moments.

She helped me put things on the counter when we checked out and when she grabbed the fruit snacks halfway through, she said we needed to wait to put those on at the end so she could find them and then eat some while she was in the car. The thought process of that alone impressed me. 

After that, she noticed the mirror in the check-out aisle and spent the rest of the time making faces to herself. Again, hilarious.

There are probably ten things a day she does or says that just blow me away. I hope every parent is enjoying their child the way I have enjoyed these last several weeks with Alexis. There have been a lot of things in her recovery that have been unexpected and icing on the cake.

But to watch the world expand before her eyes is a joy I can’t begin to put into words.

We had a full-circle moment last week when one of Alexis’ former therapists came and had lunch with her (and Brandon and myself) at school. And while I will always be convinced that every one of Alexis’ therapists is an angel, Holly is special because she was our first angel.

She was the first one I talked with on the phone when we were trying to decide what to do when Alexis woke up from her coma. She was one of the first people we saw when we got to Madonna. And when she asked us what our goals were for Alexis, and we told her we just wanted our little girl back, she taught us how to make realistic goals like drinking from a sippy cup.

Holly is the one who never gave up on Alexis’ eyes even when it had been over a month since they had moved. Day after day, Holly came into Alexis’ hospital room and worked on getting Alexis’ vision to return. Then one day it did. Alexis’ eyes have enjoyed the sights of the world ever since.

She (and one other therapist) are the reason why we are in Lincoln today, still working on therapy at Madonna. After a couple of weeks of begging Holly to help us decide what we should do after our inpatient stay was complete, she finally gave in and told me what she would do. Of course, we did what she would have done if it was her child, and I thank God that we did. Over the years I have had many conversations with Holly about what to expect for Alexis’ future.

And while Holly has always been positive and hopeful, she is always honest about the struggles that may lie ahead.

Holly lives in another state now, and we don’t get to see her that often anymore. In fact, she hasn’t treated Alexis since 2008. But it hasn’t stopped me from seeking advice or asking myself “what would Holly do” in a certain situation. Both Brandon and I know there were doctors and nurses who literally saved Alexis’ life, but it has been, and is, therapists like Holly who have given Alexis a life we never thought she would have.

It has been therapists like Holly who have had a belief in themselves and their craft, who gave us hope. They taught us how to help Alexis, and over the last four-and-a-half years, they have rebuilt Alexis’ body and brain. The amount of love and patience that it takes to do something like that is immeasurable.

So to walk into a busy lunchroom on Friday and watch Alexis and Holly share a half-hour of time was about as precious as it gets. Alexis told her about school, introduced Holly to her friends, teachers, and paras. And when it was time to go, we got Alexis out of her chair, and she walked without her walker into her classroom to show off a little bit for Holly.

It was exactly how it should be, but I can’t help but be reminded that that moment could very easily have never been.


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.