Writing / Janet Striebel
Photographer / Amy Payne
Justin Krowel exemplifies a selfless, loving father who leads his family with dignity and stability. He works as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Indianapolis.
Krowel remains committed to his family. For the past year, he and his wife, April, have had to live in separate states so that she can complete her Neuropsychology Internship in Danville, Illinois at the VA Hospital. As a father of two daughters, Abbi (7) and Aubrie (2), Justin has agreed to live in Geist with Abbi while April lives in Illinois with Aubrie, who has a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.
“We both have been like single parents for the past year,” Justin says. “You couple that with Aubrie’s special needs with epilepsy and it’s been tough. We’ve been in and out of the hospital more times than I can count, here in Indy and in Danville.”
Sometimes the Krowel family has been to the ER twice in one day due to multiple seizures. They’ve also had to stay overnight in the hospital for four or five nights at a time for recovery.
Still, Justin managed to complete a Leadership Program with the Veterans Administration. He applied for the program before Aubrie had her first seizure at 9 months old. The program was intense, requiring him to travel throughout the country. He recalls having to fly out to San Diego once when Aubrie was in the hospital. He wondered if he should quit the program so he could better support his family.
“We were spread so thin, but we aren’t the type of family who quits, he says. “So, I knew I was going to stay with it. I’m glad I did.”
Having played baseball all his life, Justin enjoys coaching Abbi’s baseball team with the Oaklandon Youth Organization. He sometimes wishes he could get up to bat or field a ground ball again. Yet, he’s benefited from watching kids develop their hand-eye coordination to where they’re now hitting the ball. He enjoys taking Abbi to baseball games such as the Indianapolis Indians and Ball State, where he attended.
In late July, April’s internship will end and they’ll reunite in their Geist home again. Justin and April met in the Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. They both completed a tour in Iraq in 2003. Coincidentally, Justin nominated April for the 2016 Geist Mom of the Year contest. She won. Now, this year, she nominated Justin for the Dad of the Year, and he feels grateful.
“I’ve enjoyed stealing moments with Aubrie after her recent surgery,” Justin says. “Abbi has become my sidekick when I remodel our home. She hands me tools, makes sure I’m hydrated and have a snack while working. The things that bothered me three years ago aren’t even on my radar today. If my family is relatively happy and healthy, that’s all I need.”