Update: Stroke of Grace has become In Darkness Sing and has moved to JenniferSaake.com.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder, Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes via vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office, including brain stem and cerebellum bleeds, in Oct. 2011. Jenni remained hospitalized for nearly 2 months and was not expected to live (near death experience) nor recover, but if she even survived, she was slated to live out her days in a nursing home or, best case, to maybe come home but wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care. At 5 years, 7 months God showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jenni is currently writing more books and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Stroke of Grace became In Darkness Sing in early 2018 and has moved, along with all five of Jennifer's active blogs, to one location at JenniferSaake.com.

Since Jenni's chiropractor carried no insurance and moved out of the country soon after the accident (thus avoiding any legal or financial consequences), if you would like to help contribute to the Saake (pronounced like the two small words, say and key) family's massive financial needs (medical expenses alone are estimated to cost between $1- and $1.5- Million in Jenni's lifetime), please visit Jennifer Saake's Stroke Survivor GoFundMe Page. (This support information has been added in direct response to several reader requests.) The Saakes sincerely thank you for your prayers and if God prompts and equips you to send any monetary assistance as well, this is a significant added blessing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Surgery Update (Chronic Crisis)

I feel like I should preface this post with a disclaimer. I am in a BAD mood as I write, so please take this into consideration as you read. I will try to present an honest picture of events and my thoughts, but this may well be colored by my current perception and any residual drug effects from yesterday's surgery. I apologize, in advance, for any ill-stated information. (The nurse said yesterday that I should consider myself, "under the influence," for at least 24 hours. Perhaps that is what is going on? Of course, that's what a "normal " person should expect, so add to that my syptoms of stroke are like drunkenness already and what do you get?)

Surgery/testing went surprising smoothly yesterday. Poor Rick had to deal with a sobbing, hysterical wife literally from the moment we stepped out of our front door until we reached the hospital. And again, several times through the morning, as we awaited my procedure, right up to the hallway outside the O.R. door. I sort of started to cry a couple times in front of my parents, but nothing remotely like when I'm alone with Rick or completely by myself. I usually don't cry with medical staff or any friends, but I cannot stop myself when I'm with Rick. I know it hurts him and is confusing. My reaction confuses me as well!

I kept thinking of how the stokes all started and how I never would have entered that office had I known I would have to leave by ambulance last Fall. I kept asking myself if I was making this choice with foreknowledge this time? My number one fear yesterday was having another stroke from the procedure. Especially one that took away memories of Rick or our kids. My second biggest was any complications that would keep me overnight in the hospital again. Thankfully, neither result happened! I know God would still be good even if my greatest fears were realized. I just so thankful that He spared me this!

I am not remotely afraid to die. I know where I am going and have seen the tiniest taste of God's glory. I know this life is fleeting and that it is very temporary. I actually welcome Eternity for this reason. My heart hurts at what it would cost my husband, kids and loved ones, but selfishly speaking, this would be my greatest desire. (No, I am not suicidal, just being real about what I feel.)

I am, very much, afraid of living in a progressively more broken shell, though. I have asked God, countless times, over the past months, to show me His purpose for the time I am still here on this earth, and I am realizing that nothing has changed about His calling on my life. I am still here to first of all worship God, bring Him glory, strive to be the best wife I can be to Rick (created by God to be his "helper suitable," for God created me uniquely to meet Rick's needs and is still enabling me with all I need to do this effectively - strokes change how this is all played out, but still fall within God's plan and didn't catch Him by surprise), to be the best Mom I am able to be (this has changed from what it was 7 months ago, but I have to trust God this is still enough), to be the daughter, sister and friend He calls me to be (not always the best I want to be by my definition of "best"), and even if I had none of those blessings, relationships or even basic abilities in my life, God craves an ever-deepening relationship with me. He's pursuing me, now what am I going to do differently to more actively pursue Him?

Some have asked why I did not call them prior to my hospital trip yesterday. The answer is not personal rejection. It is simply that I wanted God and Rick yesterday, and sometimes my parents. I knew I didn't have the strength to be up to seeing anyone else. No, no one else would have expected me to be "on" for them, but I would have put pressure on myself. Yesterday was stressful enough without inviting others to participate. God heard your prayer just as well from home as from my side and I appreciate every prayer, before, during or after surgery! Thank you for understanding.

One thing I would like to let folks know is that, nearly 7 moths after the initial catastrophe, we are still living in crisis mode. Our family is still not united, I am still not walking, doing my own laundry, consistently cooking, or caring for our home. (Thank you to Rick, my mom, Kathy, the meals team from church and all the others who fill in to carry my dropped load!) My calendar still is overflowing with almost more medical appointments than I can keep straight (thank you, again, Mom, for all that endless driving). Life is far from pre-stroke normal. We are living under the weight of daily stress. This is nearly impossible to wrap your mind around, no matter how sympathetic you long to be, unless you have lived, long-term, something similar.

It is far from even becoming a new normal of post-stroke reality. Some thing have started to normalize, like Rick's return to full-time work in his office. Other will hopefully start to return to normal within the next month, as kids (hopefully) return home full-time, I maybe stop another prescription, and my hearing issue (becoming constantly more problematic as I am interacting with the public and additional medical staff more) is addressed. Others might later in the year or next year, like when I try to get my driver's license back

We learned, yesterday, that I will likely be on one  medication for life, as the benefits (like hopefully reducing the risk of another blood clot or strokes from my prior surgery sight) far outweigh the nasty side-effects (significant bruising and heartburn). Some things will never be the same and I honestly wouldn't want everything to (though I wouldn't mind being blissfully ignorant of the changed realities).

Thank you to those God is still calling to pray daily. When you tell me this, it is the greatest gift I can imagine. I know many say, "I wish I could do something more than pray." But I tell you this is the most helpful "more" you can ever offer!

I talked to my (pretty elite, as he was the only one in the area who even could have attempted my surgeries and kept me from being sent out of state for care, last Fall) surgeon yesterday morning. He reiterated that my strokes, especially the one in my brain stem, was "quite significant." And surprised me when he looked me in the eyes and said, "I am sorry you are going through all this." That stood out to me from my day, yesterday! Of course I sobbed to Rick a bunch more as soon as he left.

We did ask for, and receive, anti-nausea medication in my I.V. prior to surgery yesterday. I still have little appetite and food, of any kind, makes me pretty nauseated. When they offered me some juice and a turkey sandwich a couple hours into recovery yesterday afternoon, I could only get a quarter of it down and asked for the nausea bag but thankfully did manage to keep things down at that time.

I was home by about 3:30 (had left the house about 7am) and had slept very little the night before, so I went straight to bed when I got home and, sleppy from the surgery medications, mostly slept pretty soundly until this morning. I did end up throwing up about 7 or 8 times, starting almost exactly 8 hour after the nausea medication had been given and about the time it should have worn off.

Of course it was after-hours, so the only number I could have called was an advice nurse who would have told me to go to the ER, something I was not remotely interested in doing and we honestly did not feel was medically warranted last night. I hate trying to explain cerebellar disease to medical staff, especially when I already am not feeling good. We knew that throwing up was an anticipated result of mixing cerebellum damage and surgery. It felt so good to sleep in my own bed last night and while I am still feeling quite nauseated (yes, I am planning to talk to my neurologist about this when I see him today) I have not thrown up any more since last night. :) I just wish I had an active prescription of Zofran on hand!

When I couldn't sleep the night before the surgery, I rehearsed, in my mind, every verse I could think of about anxiety or worry. I am prone to say that didn't help, but in reality, can you imagine how much worse off I would have been without God's peace? Thank you for praying! I leave you with thi verses I am clinging to, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" Phillipians 4:6-7 (NIV).


  1. Jenni, I too am sorry you are going through all of this, and wish there was something more I could do besides pray.

  2. I pray for you Jenni constantly!Vannessa