ST. NAZIANZ (AP) - A year ago, Tiffany Dombrowski, then 7, plunged into LakeWinnebago in a pickup driven by her friend's father. She wassubmerged in the icy water for 30 minutes before being pulledunresponsive from the water.
Michael and Jennifer Dombrowski could have been observing theone-year anniversary of their daughter's death. Instead, onValentine's Day, they celebrated her life and the progress she hasmade like a birthday.
Once everyone gets through it, Michael says he wants to breathea sigh of relief that Tiffany made the one-year mark. Despite herprogress, he has found himself wondering throughout the year, "Isshe really OK?"
When people have asked about her recovery, he's been cautious inhis answers.
"I just didn't want to be disappointed," he said.
Tiffany spent five weeks at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin inMilwaukee before returning to her rural St. Nazianz home in March.She had started walking and talking again just a week beforereturning home.
Now, she's full of life and is an active member of the family,which includes two older brothers and a younger brother andsister.
Tiffany had about a month of physical therapy and continues toreceive occupational and speech therapy, according to herparents.
"Physically, she's passed everything," Michael said, referringto an evaluation done prior to the start of the school year.
Cognitively, there are some delays. As a result, Tiffany was notable to return to St. Gregory School. She is enrolled at ValdersElementary, where she attends special education classes and haspersonal assistance throughout the day.
It's not enough for Tiffany to hear the teacher explainsomething, according to Michael.
"She needs someone to clarify directions that are given," hesaid, 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 uniquelearning 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 withTiffany, 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 atSt. Gregory.
"She's been lonely this year," Michael said.
He said they haven't had time for her to have friends over tothe house, but he also said they're nervous. They're nervous whenother people's children are with them, and they're nervous at thethought of Tiffany being at someone else's home.
"We're just playing it safe for a while," he said. But then heacknowledged, "She needs to have some friends come over."
Tiffany said she's sad about her friend, Savannah Kleinhans, andher dad, Danial Kleinhans, dying in the accident.
Jennifer said she told Tiffany about their deaths while she wasstill in the hospital. When she progressed to the point where shecould indicate yes or no, her mom asked whether she wanted to knowabout 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 toorganizing her thoughts, Jennifer said. It still takes her a whileto respond, and that leads to impatience on the part of herbrothers.
David, 14, acknowledged he gets impatient with his sisterbecause she doesn't follow directions.
"She definitely does things more impulsively now," Jennifersaid.
People are likely to be more impulsive after a brain injury, shesaid.
She finds it difficult to discipline her daughter because she'sjust so happy Tiffany is alive, "but you still have to disciplineher."
In positive and negative ways, "she has the same personality shehad before," Jennifer said.
For instance, she's always made friends easily but "every littlehurt 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. Asshe 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 inswimming lessons last summer to get back to the level she'd been atbefore the accident, Jennifer said.
The accident hasn't given her a fear of water, but that might bebecause 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 beena year ago. The family didn't venture onto the ice during thatvisit.
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