Written By:  Tiffany Verzal

Over the last four years we have had the opportunity to meet a lot of people who are, or have been patients at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital because of brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, strokes or other illnesses. We know babies, toddlers, teenagers, and adults who have survived life threatening injuries and still spend every day working towards independence. We have seen people thrive and literally walk out of the doors of Madonna.

Despite the wide range of injuries, the one common thread among all of the success stories is family support.

The importance of family support was a key conversation that we had with one of the doctors while Alexis was still in a coma right after she was hurt. I simply asked if Alexis was going to be OK, and she said, “I know she is going to be OK, she has you and Brandon as her parents.”

At the time, I thought that it was a pretty good cop-out to avoid answering what I was really trying to get out of her. Now I know better. She knew one of the key elements to recovery.

We definitely have made mistakes, but I would like to think that we are pretty good parents. But the credit doesn’t belong to Brandon and me, it belongs to the examples that were set for us. You guessed it…our parents.

This weekend marks four years from when we made one of the biggest decisions of our lives. We were in-patient (literally living in Alexis’ room) at Madonna, and nearing the end of her stay. We were weighing the options- go back to College Station away from our family and a rehabilitation hospital; or stay in Lincoln, keep her in therapy, and quit our jobs.

We knew in our hearts what the right decision was, but to take that leap of
faith spiritually and financially made it a little difficult to “take the dive.” But when we were left thinking about Alexis’ future, we both knew that neither of us would ever forgive ourselves if we didn’t do absolutely everything in our power to help her recover.

So we did.

We quit our jobs, put our house on the market in a spiraling economy, rented a town house in Lincoln…and to top it all off, we decided to start our own video production company without having a single client.

It wasn’t easy making that decision. It wasn’t easy saying good-bye to friends. It wasn’t easy packing up a house that we hadn’t been to in a month & that we both absolutely adored. But we were able to do it because we knew there were going to be people to catch us if we fell. More importantly, we knew that they were going to be able to pick us up.

After the decision was made, we headed to Texas with my parents and brother in a pickup and Brandon’s sister drove from Texas to Nebraska to help Brandon’s parents take care of Alexis while we moved. We drove all night through thunderstorms and tornadoes and reached our house to find a moving truck parked out front.

The two-day moving adventure was only the beginning of crazy favors and requests we have had for our parents in the four years since.

After a year of us living in Lincoln, my parents had made the six-hour round-trip drive from Cozad almost every weekend. At some point it was obvious that Lincoln was where they needed to be. So they moved from the house they raised their kids in, and the community they had lived in their whole lives.

They are only eight miles away now.

I can’t begin to count the number of times my parents have cleaned my house, cooked meals and  taken care of Alexis. My mom often takes Alexis to therapy, and it’s pretty common that my dad will show up to watch Alexis in therapy in lieu of his lunch hour.

Brandon’s parents have received calls late in the evening because Brandon and I had the flu and Alexis needed care. They were in Lincoln before we knew it.

They have hopped on a last minute flight to Houston to pick Alexis up from the daycare provider’s trial, and flew with her back to Lincoln. They have taken numerous days off of work to take Alexis to therapy, because they are just as committed to her recovery.

We’ve been able to work and grow our business, and know that Alexis is still going to get 100% of what she needs.

This weekend was no exception…

Early Saturday morning my parents were at our house because we had a commercial shoot across town. Late Saturday afternoon we loaded up the van because we had shoots in Omaha on Sunday. We spent the night at Brandon’s parent’s and they took care of Alexis most of the day while we worked. When we got done in Omaha on Sunday afternoon, Brandon’s parents went with us to Lincoln and my parents met up with us for the last shoot on Sunday night.

Sure, Brandon and I have made sacrifices because of her injury, but so has everyone else in our immediate family. I know in my heart that she wouldn’t be walking, talking, singing, and smiling if all of us hadn’t. I also know that our parents would have done the same thing for us, that we have done for Alexis. Not only have they supported us, but they have also made it possible for us to live out our dream of owning our own production company.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Thanks Mom’s and Dad’s, we (and Alexis) really couldn’t do it without you.

Dwight and Linda Gentzler

Mike and Linda Verzal


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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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