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Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a series by Tiffany Verzal on the trial of her daughter Alexis’s daycare provider. Click to read Part 2 and Part 3.

I’ve done everything I possibly could to NOT write this post, including turning it in late. I’ve noticed over the last two weeks that it takes me three days to get over feeling kind of bummed after I write. All of these thoughts are constantly in my head, but organizing my thoughts, writing them, and sharing them with the world takes it to a new level for me.

The trial for the daycare provider was literally the worst month of my entire life. We had some awful months leading up to it, but November of 2009 will go down in the books as hell on earth.

While writing this, I’ve realized that this needs to be three posts instead of one, or things and people will start to get really confusing.

But let’s back up to the beginning.

We dropped Alexis off at daycare a little after 9 a.m. on April 3, 2008. Less than an hour later, I received a phone call that Alexis was unconscious and that the daycare provider had called an ambulance. I immediately rushed to find Brandon (because we worked in the same area) and we left for the daycare provider’s home.

While we were on our way, I called again to figure out if Alexis had stopped breathing—and thank God, she had not. The daycare provider also told me the ambulance had picked Alexis up and we should meet them at the hospital.

Brandon and I arrived at the ER before the ambulance. I was inside giving names and insurance while Brandon met Alexis as they pulled her off of the stretcher. They started asking us questions and I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Alexis had been running around just an hour ago. I was racking my brain trying to come up with any idea of what could be wrong with her.

They had already cut off her pale blue outfit she had received as a birthday gift. They were “bagging” her, essentially keeping her breathing. We stood there beside her as they poked and prodded—all through that time, Alexis was unconscious.

As the minutes ticked away, Alexis was taken back to get a CT scan. They came out and said she had bleeding on her brain and she needed to be transported to a bigger hospital. Houston’s Children’s Hospital didn’t have room for her, so the next closest trauma center was Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas.

Still not understanding the severity of what would be ahead, or that Alexis could die with any wrong medical decision, we called our parents. My mom and dad left Cozad, Nebraska in the car, my brother not long behind them and Brandon’s parents went straight to the Omaha airport.

That is where the easy part ended.

As they wheeled Alexis to be life-flighted, I asked if we could go with her. No. Three people in flight gear rolled her away onto a windy helicopter pad and we were sent to sit in a little white room.

First we were questioned by a young (and new) police officer. I was on the verge of hysterical, and Brandon was trying to keep me together. I was still trying to remember anything that would help the doctors save Alexis. To this day, I can recall almost everything that happened that morning, including that she ate two pumpkin muffins.

After we were questioned by that officer, we had to be questioned by a County Sherriff investigator, because the daycare was outside of city limits. But he was running behind, so we continued to wait. Another officer eventually came and questioned us, and then they sent us with a map to get to Temple, Texas.

The hour-and-a-half drive took an eternity. I would call to ask if Alexis had made it. I was told they didn’t have an Alexis, that they just got a trauma patient in. I told them that was my baby and all they could tell me was that she was in critical condition and they were working on stabilizing her.

In the meantime, I received a call from the husband of the daycare provider wanting to know about Alexis. I told them what I knew, and he told me that they were getting a lawyer. Honestly, that was the least of my worries at that time.

When we finally got to the hospital, we were questioned again by the social worker. We were not even allowed into the PICU. When the social worker was done, we waited again for another half hour. And then we were questioned by the doctor.

When we were able to see Alexis for the first time, she had tubes everywhere and a hole drilled into her skull to manage the pressure of her swelling brain.

One student doctor told me that she had met Alexis on the helicopter pad to bring her in, and that Alexis was the “sickest little child she had ever seen.”

As the time marched on, I called the daycare provider a few times to give her updates on how Alexis was doing. Our families showed up, and we began the journey into the first night.

Things get pretty blurry after this for me. What comes to my mind is alarms, darkness, full-body X-rays, and Alexis not moving.

At some point the doctors sat down with us and explained that they had run several tests, looked at multiple scans and that Alexis had a subdural hematoma, which is bleeding on the brain that was vertical, pointing out the likelihood she was the victim of shaking. She was also showing the possibility of an impact to her head.

We met with another social worker, and had more questioning.

The daycare provider came to the hospital. She didn’t say anything; she just stood there and shook.

We talked with the doctors again. They got more tests back; the tests detected no illness.

This was a traumatic brain injury.

Days three and four, Alexis was fighting for her life as the pressure went up in her brain.

Reality started to sink in, Alexis had been hurt.

A Child Protective Services representative and the Sherriff’s Department investigator came to interview Brandon and me separately. We told them everything we knew, and everything we could think of.

And that is where my story will end this week.

Brandon and me talking, and talking, and talking . . . giving every piece of information that we had to doctors and investigators, trying to help Alexis get better. And the person who had Alexis in her care when Alexis went “unconscious,” not saying anything to anyone.

Part 2 here

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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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