Starting October 25 of 2011, "InfertilityMom," 39-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes, all due to vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office. The largest two strokes were brain stem and cerebellum bleeds. Jenni remained hospitalized until nearly Christmas 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 (please read more and watch short video). Jenni is now walking (with a cane or wheeled walker), has recovered much eye-sight, some hearing, partial use of her hands, cares for most of her own personal/toiletry needs, and is currently writing three books, maintains multiple blogs, and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Near the five-year recovery mark, Jenni has renewed her pre-stroke excitement about the unique Lilla Rose hair Flexi eight jewelry she sells and has finally regained enough hand/arm function to regularly use! (The biggest ongoing losses at the 4 1/2-year point of recovery are left-side nerve pain, inability to drive, loss of homeschool teaching capability, significant sound processing issues (often triggering nausea), and some profound physical ability limitations such as a limp, balance challenges, clumsy use of right hand and only large motor function in left hand.) Here is her resume.

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 equipts you to send any monetary assistance as well, this is a significant added blessing.

Jenni is clinging to God's grace through the entire experience. Here is her unfolding story, documented in her own words (typing with only her right hand), as she perceives it happening in real time, messy, honest and to the glory of God...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

One Year Stroke-a-versary

So, I have a few memories from this date, one year ago, but all from that morning, none from the rest of the day (or following week). I've asked a ton of questions and think others have relived the hours enough that I have a general sense of the unfolding of events on Oct. 25,2011 (and the days and weeks and months to follow), but this is primarily, or only, through others' recollections.

I really don't know what or how I'm supposed to feel about this day. According to most "experts" I have now achieved the majority of recovery I might ever know. I choose to believe the school of thought that recovery continues for a lifetime, but even if it isn't true, the other statistic is discouraging and sobering at a landmark like today. I almost broke down before Rick got out the door to work, but amazingly I kept it together with only a waver in my voice and quiver in my lip. (Rick is usually the only one I feel safe crying around. When I'm that close to a break down, I can hardly ever quell it, much less stop it from happening at all.) I did break down on the car ride to therapy this morning. I think that's only the second or third time my mom has seen me cry since the hospital. I thought I would be a total mess at therapy, but I never cried there.

I met my new physical therapist today. She worked me hard, and lots of new therapies. I told her I know I've pretty much maxed out my expected recovery, but I'm not ready to back down. Thankfully, she took on the challenge and took my goals seriously. My occupational therapist seems unsure what do do with me anymore, but she still always seems to come up with new ideas of how to challenge me too. I am blessed. On Tuesday I was able to move 51 wooden blocks from one box to another in one minute, with the right hand. With the left hand, I did 14. My grip strengeth in the left was up around 30 (from 16 and 19 a month or so ago).

My emotional counselor says I seem to exude peace and am filled with joy. I told her how bad off I had been just six months ago and she was astounded in the change in my attitudes. Talking it over, I think it would probably be fair to say that I am becoming more joyful now, even than I was before the strokes. I could not have comprehended that possibility even a few months ago! My counselor complimented me on my view-points and conclusions on several things, saying, "And you came to that mindset all on your own?" Well, no, not all on my own, but through the guidance of the Wonderful Counselor.

I know I still have much emotional healing to go, but itis good to look back and see how very far God has already brought me. When she hears about where I was, physically, at the start of all this, she just shakes her head and says that what I describe and who she sees sitting in her office now are so totally different, that she can't even reconcile the two. Again, testament to God's miraculous work. I should be dead, or vegetative in a nursing home.

There is much I still cannot do, may never be able to do (unless God intervenes otherwise), but as Joni Erickson Tada points out in her book, A Place of Healing, there is my to be "celebrated" (observe a day or event with ceremonies of respect, festivity, or rejoicing.). Today I'm choosing to mark this day as a day God choose to keep me on earth for His purposes. I'm still not to the point where I can thank God that I didn't die or find much on earth to truly celebrate, but I am seeking joy in Christ Himself and want to become exactly who He has in mind for me.

This morning I asked my mom to drive by the empty doctor's office where the ambulance came for me last year. I usually get teary and tense even driving near that location. Today I had to go into the parking lot, get out of the car, look in the windows, ask a ton of questions (where were the emergency vehicles parked? How were they positioned? Is that the little hallway where the EMTs had to come down?) and touch the window to look back in the building myself. Surprisingly, there were no tears, from me or my mom!

It seems there should be more to do to honor such a profoundly life-changing day. I told my husband, "We have survived a year!" He said, "We have survived a whole lot more than that." I said, "That wasn't survival." He reminded me that we have been through some pretty rough waters in the past and God has provided. Folks, I know I have voiced more than my fair share of doubts over this past year, but I think we are actually going to make it with our marriage still in tact. Thank you for the prayers, support, and thank you to my amazing husband who has his world turned on ear by a phone call one morning, a year ago today, and has fought so hard for me over these twelve months, even when I accused him of not caring. It's been very hard, but God still reigns!

I have STOOD for two showers in a row now. Washing my hair even (not trying to shave.) This was something I was never to be able to even try. I've done it with a strong grab bar because it is unsafe without, and the first time I only made it part way before I had to give up and sit for safety. My legs were shaking pretty badly by the end of the second shower, but this means I showered TOTALLY without human assistance, two times in a row. I cannot begin to describe how HUGE this accomplishment is to me. I was told six months ago that I needed to plan to sit for all showers for the rest of my life, that standing for a shower wasn't even a safe enough consideration to add it to my list of lifetime goals.

So I am legally a licensed driver again. No, I am not using that permission for a while yet, and even when I do, it will be under some strict, heavy restrictions. Still, it feels good that I have medical and state permission when I feel more ready to try! The DMV is over $100 richer through this process ($30-some to take my license away and issue an identification card instead, in January; Almost $80 to re-issue my license this week) so it still all seems like a rather stupid  (and expensive!) set of needless bureaucratic hoops to jump through, but regardless, they have been jumped and I'm legal to get behind the wheel when I feel more ready! They asked for a doctor to sign and fill out a form saying my eye sight is improved enough, but I have been given no other form of testing or instruction. I guess as long as the state made money, that's what is important to them?


There is still much more to share that I am not able to tell yet, but that's me in a nutshell. If you want more physical reports, check my post from last week. No, I still haven't started the drug study yet (long story) but maybe tomorrow or hopefully next week. The really exciting part about this drug is that rather than just helping my brain to re-wire around damaged areas and helping new parts of the brain learn old tasks, if it does as anticipated, the medication has a good likelihood of actually helping me to recover lost brain tissue. In essence, what has been dead with be resurrected and restored, at least in part. This is an entirely new possibility in stroke recovery. I am excited and hopeful to try!

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

P.S. If you want to see pictures from July, I finally think I figured out how to get some of my birthday pictures up.

7 comments:

  1. I am so glad that you are here with us and it is a year later. Your struggles and triumphs are inspiring to say the least. You are such a special person, friend, mom and wife, and God has great plans to use you!

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  2. That was me Kristin Davis by the way.

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  3. So proud of you. Thank you for sharing, for fighting and for teaching me more about my walk with God . Congratulations :) on getting your license! That is so huge, So thankful you are my friend! Big Hug!
    Andrea

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  4. I'm so happy for you! I remember that feeling of being able to shower standing up! That's an awesome feeling! I also remember when I was finally able to wash my hair with both hands! It's a great feeling to start to feel independent again. Keep celebrating every victory! You are amazing!
    Jan B

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  5. Jenni, I appreciate your openness and vulnerability with us. You are your family are in my prayers today.

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