ST. NAZIANZ (AP) - A year ago, Tiffany Dombrowski, then 7, plunged into Lake Winnebago in a pickup driven by her friend's father. She was submerged in the icy water for 30 minutes before being pulled unresponsive from the water.
Michael and Jennifer Dombrowski could have been observing the one-year anniversary of their daughter's death. Instead, on Valentine's Day, they celebrated her life and the progress she has made like a birthday.
Once everyone gets through it, Michael says he wants to breathe a sigh of relief that Tiffany made the one-year mark. Despite her progress, he has found himself wondering throughout the year, "Is she really OK?"
When people have asked about her recovery, he's been cautious in his answers.
"I just didn't want to be disappointed," he said.
Tiffany spent five weeks at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee before returning to her rural St. Nazianz home in March. She had started walking and talking again just a week before returning home.
Now, she's full of life and is an active member of the family, which includes two older brothers and a younger brother and sister.
Tiffany had about a month of physical therapy and continues to receive occupational and speech therapy, according to her parents.
"Physically, she's passed everything," Michael said, referring to an evaluation done prior to the start of the school year.
Cognitively, there are some delays. As a result, Tiffany was not able to return to St. Gregory School. She is enrolled at Valders Elementary, where she attends special education classes and has personal assistance throughout the day.
It's not enough for Tiffany to hear the teacher explain something, according to Michael.
"She needs someone to clarify directions that are given," he said, explaining that pictures also help her make connections.
"She has a privilege in a way that a lot of kids don't get," Michael said, referring to teachers being aware of her unique learning needs and tailoring instruction specifically to her.
Tiffany said school is "good." Her favorite subject is math, "and usually reading."
She said she likes the new school she's attending.
"I like the gym," she said. "I like the cafeteria."
Based on conversations he's had with the people who work with Tiffany, Principal Jason Procknow said she has a positive attitude, works hard and has "made good progress."
Being at a new school means not seeing the friends she had at St. Gregory.
"She's been lonely this year," Michael said.
He said they haven't had time for her to have friends over to the house, but he also said they're nervous. They're nervous when other people's children are with them, and they're nervous at the thought of Tiffany being at someone else's home.
"We're just playing it safe for a while," he said. But then he acknowledged, "She needs to have some friends come over."
Tiffany said she's sad about her friend, Savannah Kleinhans, and her dad, Danial Kleinhans, dying in the accident.
Jennifer said she told Tiffany about their deaths while she was still in the hospital. When she progressed to the point where she could indicate yes or no, her mom asked whether she wanted to know about Savannah and her dad, and Tiffany indicated she did.
"You could tell she was sad," Jennifer said.
Speech therapy has shifted from teaching her to form words to organizing her thoughts, Jennifer said. It still takes her a while to respond, and that leads to impatience on the part of her brothers.
David, 14, acknowledged he gets impatient with his sister because she doesn't follow directions.
"She definitely does things more impulsively now," Jennifer said.
People are likely to be more impulsive after a brain injury, she said.
She finds it difficult to discipline her daughter because she's just so happy Tiffany is alive, "but you still have to discipline her."
In positive and negative ways, "she has the same personality she had before," Jennifer said.
For instance, she's always made friends easily but "every little hurt is melodramatic," she said.
"She cares about others, and she's sensitive," Michael said.
He's happy his daughter continues to be interested in music. As she strummed a Hannah Montana guitar that had belonged to Savannah, Tiffany agreed with her dad that she wants to learn to play guitar, flute and piano.
"She wants to sing like the girl in 'High School Musical,"' Michael said.
She also enjoys swimming, and it didn't take her long in swimming lessons last summer to get back to the level she'd been at before the accident, Jennifer said.
The accident hasn't given her a fear of water, but that might be because she doesn't remember her ordeal.
"We have taken her back three times to the (accident) location," Michael said.
One of those times, the lake was covered with ice as it had been a year ago. The family didn't venture onto the ice during that visit.