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, February 4, 2013

Another Look at New Normal

I think, especially since I posted my walking video, many people get the impression that everything is fine in our world now, that I should be just about "over" this whole stroke thing. 
I so wish it did, but I'm afraid it doesn't work that way.

- Is it better than it was in October, November, December of 2011? Absolutely, so much!!! I couldn't even sit up without support then. I was initially on both feeding and breathing tubes. When the feeding tube was pulled (but not the IV - we lost track of how many huge bruises and blown veins sometime after about 26) I was allowed to experiment with soft foods for several weeks before I was allowed to attempt any kind of "real" food. Purred french toast anyone?

- Is it better than it was a year ago, six months ago, a month or two ago? Undoubtedly! I am *walking* (with a cane) since about last August, and that alone is fairly mind boggling.

- Am I able to be home without adult supervision now? Yes, as long as I am wearing my emergency call button.

- Am I able to cook a few meals and manage a meal plan? To a certain extend. 

- Does Rick still have to do pretty much all the grocery shopping and much meal suggestion and brainstorming? You bet! (Oh, and somewhere in the midst of it all, he has a 40+ hour, weekly job, takes care of vehicles, the house, the yard, and all kinds of other random needs like photocopying, buying stamps, picking up items like milk when we are running low, staying in constant contact with all our son's teachers, getting us all out the door to church each Sunday, helping me remember my own daily schedule and plethora of ongoing appointments, making our kids feel loved, safe, happy and secure.)

- Do I drive? I technically could, in that I have jumped through the legal and medical hoops to regain my physical paper (plastic) license again. That was a huge process and major victory in and of itself. But in reality, I haven't been confident in my own ability to even practice around a parking lot yet, much less drive myself to the grocery store or anything like that. If and when the day ever comes, that will be my main goal, just to get myself a few blocks like to the drugstore and back. I don't know that I will ever be ready for regular driving on main roads again.

- Can I sort and start laundry? Sitting in the hallway or laundry room floor, with help from our kids. 

- Do I have the balance to push a vacuum cleaner or mop? Not at all, though I did surprise myself my accomplishing about three swipes with a broom last week!

- Can I fold laundry? More like just pathetically attempt into a wad, so no, not really. 

- Can I clean our bathrooms or kitchen? Occasionally, sort of, but it takes an extraordinarily long time, takes a LOT out of me, and still isn't terribly well done by the time I'm finished. 

- Can I balance a checkbook, pay bills, or manage our finances? Not unless you count my ready ability to whip out a credit card. I make lots of impulsive purchases still (I think this is gradually getting to be a bit better?) but my sweet husband has had to take over all the other financial management of our household. We made sure I knew how to do it all so I would be OK if anything happened to him, never picturing ourselves trying to hack our own financial passwords (I couldn't remember) from my hospital bedside for him to get a few urgent bills paid!

 

- Are our kids able to be home with me? It took 8 months, but thankfully the answer is now yes, though, I'm only able to continue homeschooling the two youngest as my 13-year-old is mentally beyond me now. Great growing pains continue to be a daily reality for us all, there.

- Emotionally, is our family stable now? This is probably the biggest prayer need. Every one us of us has been profoundly shaken, unsettled, changed by the events of these past 15+ months (extended family to some extent too). We may look fine to the casual observer, but we are still in survival mode, a bit of crisis mode even. Even a little thing like a small cold (yes, I'm still fighting mine, and now have shared it with my mom, for whom it hasn't stayed so little, oldest son, who is sick enough to miss school for the first time ever, and several family members) can really set us off kilter. Interpersonal family relationships are forever altered, fractured maybe is the better word? We will never relate to one another quite the same. My amazing husband has taken on the roll of primary caregiver (think of a parenting relationship) and of (for most practical purposes) single parent of three, often four (counting me) dependent children. Couple this with the new educational stresses, changes, and needs including school lunches and transportation issues, and he more than has a full plate!

Here's a bit of an explanation I just gave to a new friend in a chronic pain group when she asked about my treatment path: It has only been about 15 months since my first (of 6) strokes, so we had to work on the basics like breathing, eating, learning to sit up, trying to regain some control of my voice, walking, and even more intensive pain issue from TMJ and trigeminal nerve (face, my left jaw apparently dislocated during the first strokes) before we could even start to address the overall (especially left side) chronic pain syndrome Central Pain Syndrome (CPS) issues. At this point, "treatment" is just that my neurologist is "keeping an eye" on things. I also have a new kind (since the strokes) of migraine and need to investigate thyroid issues that seemed to have really been thrown out of whack by the strokes. In my first 6 months of recovery, I had 8 different surgeries, most unrelated to each other (other than all being stroke damage - well, I guess 3 were related to my dissected artery, and two involved hearing issues). So we will get there, but the CPS issues have kind of had to take a back seat for a while. Stroke of Grace by Jennifer Saake is more of my story on my Facebook page. 

I forgot to mention that other than my jaw, shoulder, neck and face (ironic, since the only full numbness to remain is with part of my mouth), I didn't even KNOW I had pain issues until more recently, because my left side was pretty numb,  all the way around. It wasn't until those nerve signals started waking up enough to go more haywire that I was even aware of so much pain, about the time of the research study I was involved in (mostly after the 1-year mark), so to say we haven't addressed the issue in 15 months is quite misleading. I hope to soon post a video of the stretches my OT and PT (Occupational and Physical Therapists) both gave me for my neck pain.

I guess all this to say, please continue to keep us in your prayers! I think we are working toward our "new normal," but that means pretty much learning to live from scratch again, not just with the physical and mental capacity changes, but with family relationships, friendships, faith (relationship with God) and so very much more! I have people who tell me that it is hard to keep an eternal perspective in the face of so much earthly suffering that seeks to drown out our hope or vision of eternity. I seem to have just the opposite problem. It is so very hard to stay "in the world," adequately focused on this lifetime, when my heart is far from "of it" and I long for eternity! I so need to learn that I can rejoice in this day simply because the Lord has made it and that alone makes it good!


Hebrews 13:19
I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

2 comments:

  1. Girl, you are still my hero. I can barely stand now for all the dizziness, plus you can keep almost better track of my kids birthdays than I do. Hang in there. This is so rough.

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  2. Jenni,
    I understand. I'm way better than I was months ago but not 100%. Some people have me taking the CPA exam already, working out at the gym 3x a week etc and I'm just getting back to quilting and just this past weekend had my first weekend where I didn't sleep the entire weekend.
    It's kind of how we want God to make everything OK now but that's not how it works.

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