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...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Normal?

Interesting morning here. In one massive incident of lying and pure rage screaming and yelling (on the part of our youngest son - I actually kept amazing calm :) ) we are off screens (t.v. privileges, computer, x-box, etc.) for the day and he owes me 45 quarters (he owes me one for each time he outright challenges my authority) for this morning!!! Great start to the morning. :( (Not!) Now he has been fighting me for the past 8 1/2 hours to get one paragraph of handwriting copied! Tomorrow is his 7th birthday. <3 Praying we will have a much better day! I'll be posting a cute story from our youngest over on my InfertilityMom blog, shortly.

School is going OK over all. We have a couple lost books right now that are really hampering progress in those two areas, but otherwise we are doing well, here at home. Our oldest seems to be doing great at the charter school too (though we would still appreciate your prayers). A tutor is coming for our daughter twice a week now (for her dyslexia) and we are all still adjusting to our oldest being away. We just got our class list for this semester of homeschool co-op. It's hard to believe this will be our last semester ever!

On Friday, my water coach said it was the first time she had ever (in the 5 months she has been working with me) heard the word "can't" come out of my mouth. She was asking me to swim on my left (weaker) side, and after trying to drown myself several times because she would tell me "now kick that left leg" when I thought I already WAS kicking it, I was indeed discouraged. Thank you, M., for the reminder that I don't need to rely on my own strength, but to let Christ shine through lack! Yesterday I made it across the width (not length yet) of the pool, on my left, with only the support of a pool noodle holding me up. It wasn't smooth or pretty, but I did pretty much stay above the water, and even without the flotation belt I had been wearing when I was so disheartened last week!

I am meeting more and more people who obviously know something is "off" with me (the cane and limp are a bit of a give-away!) but say they never would have guessed I had had a stroke if I hadn't told them. I wonder if they are just being nice, or this is their real perception? I tend to think maybe it isn't so visibly obvious any more, as this reaction is a fairly new fenomina. 

The checker at Wal-Mart said she didn't even notice that I held one arm drawn up to my chest and did everything with only one hand, until I told her about the strokes. The ladies at the gym are always quite shocked to hear my story. I know my memory is not what it should be and certain areas (geography, higher math, sometimes using one word when I really mean quite another, etc.) are pretty compromised now, but my counselor says that my ability to verbally express myself seems pretty normal, that she would have no idea from chatting with me in every day conversation that I was really even struggling to conduct conversation now.

I know I still talk a little funny, but I heard a recording of myself recently and it mostly just sounded like a soft lisp now. I was pleasantly surprised. I don't sound like I used to before, I can't sing at all (very little range, no sense of timing, little control over note movement), but I'm not just monotone or robotic sounding like I was for many months. 

I produce a lot of extra saliva and have a hard time controlling that, but other than kind of sounding like I'm talking with a bit of food in my mouth, I don't have to repeat myself nearly as often as I used to. The left side numbness in my mouth has gradually improved (still not gone with some totally numb spots still and the rest with far-from-normal sensation) so I'm sure that is part of not being able to control all the drool.

The left side of my jaw/face still hurts a LOT. Maybe it always will? I still can't chew on that side of my mouth because of lack of feeling in some teeth and super pain sensitivity in others (and my jaw). The neurologist says he not really surprised that I interpret most touch on the left as pain, but that we would have to "keep an eye on" that, whatever that means. My neck and shoulder (especially since my harder swimming efforts) are grumpy too.

I have surprisingly little facial paralysis. I see it plainly, but others don't notice much at all. I notice it MORE as we get farther out, as the right side strengthens and the lack on the left becomes comparatively more profound. Mostly it looks like someone has injected me with Botox around my left eye and my left lips don't really lift much when I smile, so I grin pretty lopsidedly. I used to have deep dimples. I don't think I have them on the left any more at all, on the right not very deeply any more.



I am still fighting through daily exercises and lots of therapy and medical appointments. Many relationships remain altered, some far from what they used to be, but I think maybe I am starting to find that illusive "new normal," this side of so much change? Will life ever be the same? Will I ever be the same? Will our marriage ever be the same? Will my interaction as the Mommy of my children ever be the same? Will I ever walk gracefully again? Dance? Drive a car? Play my flute? Be responsible for the education of my children? No, probably not. 

But I am learning new lessons, new skills. Today I was remembering how it wasn't so many months ago that I seriously thought I would probably never walk the length of our hall, unaided, again. Now I do that every day. Then, the hall seemed so terribly long, even with my walker. Now, it still seems long, but not nearly so much so, and within our home I am walker-free, often even cane-free, since I can easily grab onto walls when needed and don't have to mentally compensate for other movements around me, like I do in public.

My first puzzle, in the rehab hospital. 24 pieces and how I struggled! Last week, my 6-year-old and I snapped together a 99-piece puzzle in almost no time at all. (The 500-piece I tried with my mother-in-law at Christmas was still too much for me, but I was encouraged by the progress to do the 100-piece one with relative ease last week!)
Psalm 85:4a
Restore us again, O God our Savior...

4 comments:

  1. (( Hugs )) - admire your courage, Jenni!
    Love,
    Lynn

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh girl, that is so encouraging. Right now my hallway is still terribly long...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hang in there my friend! I know it seems so hopeless, endless, discouraging right now!

      Delete