Written By:  Tiffany Verzal

When I was 18, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There were only a few things I knew, and one was that I was really bad at math.

I remember sitting in my dorm room with my roommate in the middle of the first semester, flipping through the book that listed out all of the majors and class requirements. I came to my career decision by looking for the major with the least amount of math requirements.

The College of Journalism only required Math 206, and Math 206 taught you how to balance a check book. It was a win-win for me.

I didn’t really have an appreciation for what being a “journalist” was, I just figured I would magically end up on television somehow. Fortunately for me, I was hired at HuskerVision (the video production unit within Husker athletics) the end of my freshman year at UNL.

It was the job that would change my life forever.


I discovered that there was a lot more to journalism than being on television. What I started to see was the power of telling a story. I was inspired by the lives that people lived. I found that my gift wasn’t in front of the camera, but behind it. And that I found joy putting video, pictures, voices and music together. I accidentally fell in love with broadcasting.

I loved what I did enough that when I had to take other jobs after college, it drove me crazy. I knew my talents. I knew what I wanted. And even if it took working in the middle of the night to do it, I was willing. When I needed to put in a 90-hour work week, it wasn’t a big deal.

When Alexis got hurt, my fast-paced life in broadcasting came to a screeching halt.

We were asked to sit quietly in a dark room in ICU, and we couldn’t do anything. By the third day, I had an itch- I needed to document this. Alexis was going to need to see video of this, so she knew what she fought through. I needed to do something, and I was comfortable behind the camera.

The one is one of the first days in ICU, I snuck out to get a shot of everyone who was in the room.

We started a care page for Alexis for our friends and family to keep up with how she was doing. Pretty soon there were thousands of people reading and praying for her. Brandon and I saw the power in her story, and knew that our talents would lead us to keep telling it.

As we watched her recover, we also knew that there was an important story to tell about rehabilitation. More importantly, there were so many people’s stories that needed to be told, not just Alexis.

Eventually we produced a documentary about rehabilitation and brain injuries.  Now we speak to groups of students, therapists, daycare providers and educators. I write this blog. Brandon and I serve on boards. We tell people’s stories.

But selfishly, it helps us heal from heartbreak. It inspires us to be around others fighting the same fight. It reminds us to keep going. And I pray to God that it will save one child from what Alexis has went through.

It gives me a reason.

When I got a message last week from a friend (after my last blog entry), it got me thinking. Both of our kids were in in-patient rehabilitation at the same time. Both of our toddlers had brain injuries. We didn’t hit it off right away. I’m pretty sure our paths would have never crossed if not for the injuries. We had very small conversations at first. But after six months of our kids fighting the same battle, we had formed a strong bond.

She didn’t get as lucky as I did. Her little guy hasn’t been as fortunate in his recovery as Alexis. My friend gave it everything she had- in rehabilitation for her son, and with her marriage.

Part of the message my friend sent said she didn’t know how I do everything, and that sometimes it makes her feel like she doesn’t do enough.

I think that she made a good point, and I bet most of us feel like that several times a week. We look at Pinterest, and wonder how these moms are so creative. How do these people have time to create these beautiful plates of food?

We read blogs and wonder how are these people are getting their kids to read at two-years-old? How do they have eleven children? We look at Facebook…how are these people on their fifth vacation this year? How did that girl lose all that weight right after having a baby?

As women we are used to feeling inferior to celebrities. Now with all of the social media, we get to feel inferior to each other without the usual excuses- “they have millions of dollars, chefs, publicists, nannies, personal trainers, etc.”
What I think we tend to forget is that a lot of times we are only seeing the side that people want to put out there.

I share these stories with you in writing because it is what I am good at. I’ve had years of practice. It takes a little extra time each week, but it is easy for me.

Telling stories is my life’s work.

I’m not more inspiring than my friend in Oklahoma. Sure, our contributions to brain injuries and children are different. But I know that neither of our stories carries more importance than the other.

My friend has faced more adversity, and made tougher decisions in the past four years, than I ever have or will. The other part of her message made the best point…she said that neither one of us could live the other one’s life. What a brilliant lady!

All of us are going to contribute to this world at different times and in different ways.  Most people are not going to get recognized for the work that they do- because most people don’t get to tell the world about what they accomplish or fight through each day.

You don’t have people clapping for the awesome meal you put together for your family, or the fact that you got all three kids to every activity on time last week, or because you spent two hours on the phone helping a friend in need.

The only reason I (kind of) get to is because I wanted to avoid taking math classes 14 years ago!

Let the bloggers, professional picture takers, Facebook posters, tweeters, fund-raisers, crafters, painters, chefs, writers, producers, public speakers, entrepreneurs, ad agencies, marketers, and artists of the world inspire you…but never ever question your own contribution in life.

Behind every woman is an amazing story to be told, most of the time there is just not the means to tell it.

So when you are feeling inferior to the cyberspace world, be your own publicist (even if it’s just in your head)- don’t be afraid to celebrate yourself.

Here’s a link to our documentary:

http://www.madonna.org/madonna_experience/pathways.html

Alexis’ you tube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/tiffylinn?feature=guide

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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.

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