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...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ears, Kendra Update, Upcoming MRI and More

I had my first ear/nose/throat appointment today. The ENT looked in my ears, played around with my ear drums (ouch) and scoped my nose (unpleasant). In the end, the hearing loss does seem to be stroke-related, probably paralysis or significant weakness of the left eustachian tube not allowing pressure to equalize in that ear. We will try daily nose drops for about 3 weeks, and if that doesn't stabilize the pressure and restore hearing, he will make a small slit in my eardrum and insert a tube in my ear. According to web site research, this should restore my hearing immediately. Praise God!

Thank you to all who are praying for Kendra. She still has a very long road ahead, so I request your continued prayers. I did want to pass along the praise that she has graduated out of neurological ICU and into "Intermediate Care." She sounds as if she is now doing things as well as or better than when I legt ICU for the regular neuro wing of our hospital so I am guessing that's about where she is at, just a different name in her stroke center. Her next step is rehabilitation, but I would anticipate that is still several weeks away.

If I could also request prayer for M., she had a stroke the day after Kendra's (yes, she is a very young woman too, I don't know many details) and her family was to meet with a team of doctors to make a plan today. She is unable to speak or, apparently, to understand anything spoken to her, though doctors suspect she probably retains some memories of communication, movement and life before the stroke - torturous! She has already endured cranial surgery but is not even tolerating tube feedings. Her prognosis is not good. Please pray!

Today in therapy, I walked backwards, at first holding on to a rail, then the arm of a therapist and eventually unassisted (one therapist walking with me, but only there to catch me when I lost balance and not holding on to me). This was a skill I couldn't master for even a few steps last time we tried (a month or so ago) but I did quite a bit today! I was very slow and still awkward but I did it! I also walked (forward) without support for several laps of the rehab center.

Last week, on Monday, I walked the length of the (very uneven) lawn, once, without holding on to anything (two therapists still walking with me), then on Thursday I walked both directions across the lawn in the same amount of time it had taken me to go one direction just 3 days before. A rabbit even hopped across my path Thursday, movement that normally would have really thrown me off balance, and I kept right on walking. God's power!

I didn't try the sitting step machine today because we ran out of time. Thursday I only made it 11 minutes (out of 15) and around 800 steps. This was after my first lawn walk so I was very tired before we even got started. They had turned the cardio resistance up from a level 3 to a level 6 and my therapist was thrilled I made it 11 minutes and that I was sweating so heavily that he had to get me a towel.

I am having o lot of sharp, newer, upper back pain. My therapist says the best and fastest ways to address that is through spinal manipulation. For some reason I'm resistant to that approach, so it could be a long process to bring that under control. It is one more thing to eat up time at therapy. Please pray we can resolve this quickly, thoroughly and wisely!

Thanks to my wonderful husband, I walked into church this Sunday. I was holding Rick's arm for extensive balance and some support, so I told him he was being my "walker" that day, but the looks on a few faces was priceless. Thank you, Lord!

It was a tearful weekend. This weekly cycle of uncontrollable sobbing is exhausting, for Rick and for me. Please keep us both in prayer, specifically that I can learn to handle my emotions better.

My 6-month MRI is tomorrow. I don't know when I will get results. My occupational therapist should be back from training and again in the office for my Wednesday appointment. I will have physical therapy again Thursday. Other than the kids being back home (no, not for good yet), I think Friday is currently clear. Praising God for giving my mom stamina to keep up with all the driving - thank you Mom!

Thank you too, Kathy, for your faithfulness every Thursday. And thank you to our church family, for still bringing meals so many months into this journey! (I tried to prepare a meal on Saturday, Rick doing any lifting or carrying for me, and let's just say that it was somewhat edible but "disaster" would be a significantly understated description of the whole 2-hour preparation process.) Thank you, Sue, for the beautiful hats you blessed me with on Sunday. Thank you to all of you for fervently covering me in prayer. Most of all, thank you to my amazing husband for sticking with me through all the highs and lows!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

6 months

I don't know how I am supposed to feel about this date. Half a year ago, I woke up, kissed my kids, walked out the house on my own power, went to the doctor, and it started out just as an ordinary day. The past six months have turned out to be anything but ordinary!  I am sleeping surprisingly soundly, most night (praise!) even though I still am wanting to go to bed around 8 in the evening, I'm still struggling, beyond words, with the coming and weekly going to outside care of my kids, I am still fighting to learn to walk again. I've seen more doctors and specialists than I care to count over the past 6 months, most unrelated to the doctors I was seeing before!

Some doctors and support organizations tell me that whatever improvements I have seen by the six month mark will be the most I can expect to ever see. Most, even those who statistically give me a longer window of improvement, agree that this first six months will be the most rapid and pronounced parts of my improvement. Some say that I will keep improving for 1 year, 1 1/2 years, or a very few even say 2 years. I have know and heard of folks still making some strides, just not as quick or measurable, a decade later. We will see what God has in store, but it is discouraging to think this may be about it.

There has been SO MUCH progress since my time in the hospital, but I still have such a very long way to go. I may or may not be accurate in this statement, but in doing research and reading numerous stories, I have been led to believe that many people who have the kinds or extent of brain damage I did, either do not survive at all, or, more likely, live semi-vegetative lives for the rest of their lives. No wonder I'm having a hard time finding anyone who really understands, can relate or can offer me help!

With this in mind, I am more than thankful for how far I have come, but, like anyone else would, I want back my life and abilities of before, though I'm incredibly thankful that the abilities I do have no longer seem as hamper nearly as much by chronic illness as for 22 years before. God's grace in the storm! (I am not free to really answer questions about this topic, so please don't ask. I will share, in detail, when or if I am free to do so!) For those who want to know, I am now tolerating about 45-60 minutes of exercise per day without significant backlash. There are exceptions to this rule, like yesterday when I could only mange about 20 minutes before I went to sleep for a good chunk of the afternoon. But we are talking general rules.

The last couple weeks have been especially emotional for me. Reliving it all (and more) as I pray for Kendra has been very hard, both in my worry for her and in all the remembering and questions for me. There have also been some significant marriage issues, most brought about by my ungodly thought patterns, insecurities, fears, ill-chosen words, and unwise actions. My husband has been so incredibly forgiving and steady through it all. Please pray for strength for Rick! I would leave me if I could because I must be so hard to live with. He has assured me of his faithfulness and commitment to our family, but he's got to be feeling so beaten down by now!

I look at our 9-year-old in her emotional swings or even our mature but childlike 12-year-old and ask myself if either of them would be ready for marriage? The answer is obviously not. Then I consider myself, with some of a brain with almost 40 years of experience, and other parts so immature as to be compared to a six month old child, and other parts non-existent all together. I think of 1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me," and wonder where is the verse for when my mind becomes like that of a child, only in part, yet again?

You know the updates on walking, my ears, jaw and "regular stuff" I keep you updated on. I haven't talked of my shoulder for a while. It is still not healed, still causes me pain, and still slides out of position a bit. It is, however, slowly showing signs of improvement. I am putting weight through it consistently and that now seems to be helping rather that hurting it more. I am doing a few minutes of therapy that use it each week and I seem to be tolerating that.

My blood flow still is an issue of prayer. While I have mostly regained feeling in most of my body (my mouth being a notable exception), and am even starting to feel slightly ticklish at times again, I wake up with a prickly left foot many mornings. My normal state is to see my left foot purple, as (we suspect) blood pools in it any time in sits at rest for even a moment. Getting up and trying to walk on it for aggressively, for several minutes, tends to help. This improvement only lasts as long as I continue walking. The foot is usually purple again within moments of sitting back down.

I am getting some limited movement out of my left hand. If I really concentrate and force my figures to move, I can sometimes manage the computer keyboard to type, though it is an agonizingly slow process and spell-checker is my constant friend for all the keys I mistakenly hit!

I am starting to see a single image of most things, even at a distance, if the objects are totally still and directly in front of me. Even a few inches to either side an they will double again. Any movement, when I am stressed, tired, or often for no known reason at all, I can not pull the doubled images I see, even directly in front of me, together, no matter how hard I try. Still, it is starting to give my weary eyes a little rest and I am thankful for the times I do see singly!

One prayer need, coupled with a praise, is that the lady I have selected as my counselor is currently applying to be contracted with my insurance. They told her it would normally be a 3-month process, beginning from the time she filed the initial paperwork, yesterday. Because she has already completed many of the steps that will be required of her, the insurance told her it should go faster. Please pray that they will accept her application, that the process will be finished very quickly, that God will keep us out of crisis while we wait (at all for the future would be even nicer!), and that I would be able to get in to see her, with insurance approval, very soon. If this is not the direction God is leading us, pray that God would lead me to just the right person,though my heart is already here, after a wonderful phone consult.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There's much I could say but only one thing really on my heart. Please, I ask of you, once again, to uphold our marriage in prayer. God knows the details but we do need your prayers!

I ask, too, that you would pray for me to have wisdom and clear direction as I seek much-needed counseling. The last several days I have been a teary mess! Just as I my physical healing is progressing much faster than it would on its own, with the tools given me in therapy, I believe the wisdom and guidance of a counselor will aid my emotional and spiritual progress as well. I didn't think this would be an easy journey, but folks, this stroke thing is just plain hard, all the way around. Much harder than anything else I have ever faced.

The last thing the chiropractor said to me before he started the adjustment that led to the strokes, was, "Just relax," so I am having major trust issues these days, especially when it comes to health-care providers! Last week was especially taxing with so many different appointments all week long. Starting on the 30th (as currently scheduled) next week looks just as hard, with several new specialist to see and tests to endure. I still have two appointments that I'm awaiting returned call to schedule. It's a lot to keep track of and not let any balls drop. I'm not good at this professional patient thing! It's often so very scary.

Today I walked into therapy, carrying my walker. The therapist smiled and said that while this was not a way walkers are normally used, that he was glad to see me experimenting with walking skills. He says that because of my tachycardia (balance challenges) I am still at unusually high risk of falls, but we are making progress. I still use the walker extensively, to catch myself whenever I loose my balance (a lot).

Today I walked in grass without the walker forr the first time. I was shocked by how uneven smooth-looking ground actually felt. My therapists (2 still walk with me, for safety) had to catch me several times.

I also walked and had to scan a large room for a scavenger hunt. My kids probably would have found all the cones ("hidden" in plane sight) really quickly, but it was a real challenge for me!

I was exhausted, sweaty and stinky after that exertion (never thought I would describe a walk across a small lawn that way) but I still managed 15 minutes on the seated step climber after all that. I felt like throwing in the towel after just a few minutes, but pushed on and more than met my goal of 1,000 steps. The therapist has stopped slowly decreasing the tension in the machine to teach me muscle control, and has moved it to a significantly higher level, to be a cardio workout. I still managed to log 1,049 steps in those 15 minutes!

Please continue to keep my friend, Kendra in your prayers. She is still in ICU (over a week now) and had surgery for a tracheomstomy today (something I, thankfully avoided all together). While I am still having some swallowing issues, I really feel for Kendra!  For perspective, I was only in ICU for six days, the first time around!



Friday, April 20, 2012

Facebook

If you are on Facebook, you can now find these updates by "liking" my page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stroke-of-Grace-by-Jennifer-Saake/339888582731687

If you don't do Facebook (or even if you do use this tool but don't want to join my page there) I would encourage you to "follow" me on the right sidebar here at strokeofgrace.blogspot.com, where it says, "Join this site", in the blue box. I am hoping  publishers will be happy with numbers when I eventually query to publish this book!

Of course, if you really want to help bump up my numbers by doing both, I won't mind. ;)

Thank you for your help and amazing support.

Audiologist

I am just home from the audiologist.

My right ear has mild hearing loss, mostly in the very upper range. The left ear, while seeming to show slight improvement since the hospital, has mild (in the mid range) to profound (everywhere else, including much of the "speech banana") hearing loss. I do fairly well with most vowel sounds, but can hear almost no consenent sound with my left ear at all (this same area is slightly compromised with the right). No wonder I have to put the telephone to my right ear and prefer to have people sit on my right side to talk!

Since I also have nearly -200 (pounds? whatever the unit of measurement is, +5 in the right ear) of pressure in the left eardrum, something normally consistent with severe allergies and sines problems, like when an airplane is coming down for a landing and your ears feel clogged and need to "pop," she is sending my results to an ear/nose/throat specialist for evaluation.

The good new is that the ear nerve test showed only mild damage in the left, so if we can figure out what is going on with my otter and middle ear, the left inner ear seems correctable,to the extend of hearing I have in my right ear, with hear amplification. This is a major praise as we had expected significant nerve damage from the strokes!

I now wait for a follow-up phone call from the E/N/T or the audiologist, to determine my next step, either a consult with the E/N/T or a hearing aid from the audiologist for that left ear if the E/N/T thinks he doesn't need to see me.

Thank you, Latricia, for the suggestion of Megan at Silver State Hearing and Balance. She is wonderful!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good News, Bad News

It's been a mixed week with high highs and low lows.

My friend, Kendra, remains in ICU after being air-lifted from Alaska to Seattle. I have talked to mutual friends who have spoken with Kendra's husband or sister, but I have not gotten to talk to them directly. Please keep Kendra and her family in your prayers!

Still on the bad news front, my dentist has referred me to an oral surgeon for my jaw. I am currently working on making this appointment and will be taking more x-rays before we make a final decision. I am hoping to avoid surgery with therapy, as pain has gone down significantly and mobility has somewhat improved with treatment, so I would like to stay on this path for a while longer, to see if we can avoid another surgery. When I could barely open my jaw wide enough for the dentist to cram in "bite wings" in for tooth x-rays, in addition to the inability to move the jaw forward with opening as it should, the dentist didn't hesitate to send me to a surgeon for a referral! Now I mostly only have significant pain when yawning or otherwise trying to force my mouth to open too widely (like withTuesday's dental exam). If I need surgery now, how bad was it before, when I was in constant, agonizing pain?

As for good news, my regular (not the neurologist) eye doctor is seeing enough improvement in my vision that he no longer needs to see me back in three months, but instead in six! While my sight continues to change, literally, moment-by-moment (something that does not look doubled when I start a sentence might well be doubled by the time I finish speaking), generally I am starting to see single images sometimes again! If there is any movement to see, or an object is more than few inches from my eyes, it will most likely be two pictures. But if an object is very close and perfectly still, it might be a single picture now. Dual images often overlap,and while this is very confusing, I am thankful that my vision is moving somewhat closer together! My therapist says my eyes are tracking so much better than they used to and that I might actually avoid eye surgery in the end. I would love to surprise the neuro ophthalmologist (in a good way) when I see him nest!

The other great new comes from therapy, both occupational and physical. The occupational therapist  had me do some assessments yesterday, and while the left hand still only moves at 1/10 the speed/accuracy of the right (and it moves slower than it should too), I am thankful that it does move a bit now! Physical was even more encouraging today because I walked (without support, without weight, without a guard belt, with the stand-by assistance of two therapists who only needed to catch me 2 or 3 times in about 15 minutes) up and down the hall,carrying a tray for the first time. We added a pitcher (that I only dumped over once),then also a cup that I managed never to spill! I also walked over uneven surfaces in sock feet, then doing the same but carrying a cup half-filled with water. I only spilled a few drops of the water. I am to start walking without the walker, a little every day, here at home, only when someone is here to supervise.

Tomorrow is the audiologist.


I have written 1 more full section, or 3 more devotionals for my fruit book this week I have 9 more sections (or 27 devotionals, out of a total of 46) left to go, then start querying publishers. Thanking the Lord for this progress.

I am using a gift certificate to get my house cleaned right now. :)

The kids will be home for the weekend in a little over an hour! They will maybe be coming home for good in about 5 more weeks, Lord willing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Welcome

You can catch up on some of the events of the past 5 1/2 months by reading at http://infertilitymom.blogspot.com/search/label/stroke. I'm glad you have graced my new page with your visit!

I would love it if you would drop by the comments area and tell me how you found out about my story or what brought you here! You can simply say Facebook or through HP or my book (or something else) if you don't want to go in to detail.