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

Friday, August 2, 2013

Satisfied?

As you may know, my computer was down for several days and then I was out of town for a weekend, so I hand wrote this journal entry (15 notebook pages of big, sloppy writing!) and am post dating it so it posts on the date actually written.

Found on Facebook



Sometime in that dream-state between sleep and consciousness this morning I had a "conversation" with a man who had not seen me since early in my recovery. He posed an interesting question that I have continued to ponder this morning. "Are you satisfied with your recovery?" he asked.

Am I satisfied? Surprisingly, I guess so, for the most part! Am I the same as before? No, not physically, mentally, nor spiritually. For the depth of my closer relationship with God, I wouldn't trade for the other me back, though! For all the rest, I keep reminding myself how very temporary this life truly is and that this world is not my home!

Mentally, it is frustrating when I go to share a thought and I have no clue what I was about to say. That my husband just laughs with me now at the ridiculousness of it all, really helps. When I can't find a word or remember an event or detail or even what I said five minutes ago, or have to ask to have something that I would have easily "gotten" before the strokes, re-explained for the dozenth time, I rightfully feel frustrated by the lack, but overall I feel pretty highly functioning and I am thankful.

Our precious 13-year-old son (quite brilliant - we knew this long before the strokes) is forever devising new logic games that are way beyond my grasp. When he tries to explain the rules to me, I apologize for not being able to comprehend enough details to even attempt to play. He becomes almost insulted, not that I won't try his new game, but with a "Don't talk about my Mom that way!" attitude. He is forever telling me (our other kids too), "Mom, you ARE smart! You don't give yourself enough credit!" I am blessed to have been given such encouragers!

Emotionally, I am still mystified by the utter inability to cry around most people, even "safe" loved ones, or in most circumstances, even sad or distressing ones. It is even more frustrating to avoid much serious conversation with my husband because I won't get through it without sobbing, even if I felt pretty emotionally strong and stable when we started and even if it is not an overly emotion, likely even a good, topic!

Still, there is massive improvement there because he can now say, "The sky is blue," without sending me into torential tears. And my screaming and rage, that was the hallmark of so much of our lives, for wat too long last year, has almost entirely faded away. Praise God!

Inappropriate laughter remains a constant, especially alone with Rick. I simply find certain words and situations and even people, to be funny, when no one else does. I took our kids to a movie last week (a first for me to do alone since the strokes!) and there were several scenes when I found myself to be the only person in the entire theater to be laughing at something. I went back to visit some former therapists recently and the entire office staff, even those who never worked directly with me, seemed to remember me by my hysterical laughter that is often still such a constant, especially when I am taxing my brain and trying new things.

Physically, I remember laying in my hospital bed, unable to move to even roll over, take regular liquids by mouth, or so much more, and telling my family that I just wanted my eyes and legs back. Today, I have both. No, neither as good as before, but, as I often tell people when they ask how recovery is going, "Not bad, since I should be dead!"

I am slow, use a cane outside of my own home, and cannot break into a run no matter how hard I try, but I CAN walk. This was never supposed to be possible! I "should" be hooked up to machines in a nursing home, even now. It is impossible to really wrap my head around what my reality was repeatedly predicted to be and what is.

A year ago, I was just beginning to  use my cane. Now I rarely need it in terms of catching myself to keep from falling (though I do still use it to steady myself several times a day), but mostly carry it now as a visible warning to others so that strangers are more careful to give me wider birth and less likely to knock me over.

No wonder I was so angry and depressed even after I came home. In addition to the dramatic brain injuries that still significantly mess with those processes, I was basically written off by the vast majority of the medical community (thank you rehab Dr, W. and the hospital intern who that I could maybe fight for a chance at survival)! Dismal expectations were almost all that was spoken into my life by medical professionals, for many months! I was given pretty much NO HOPE. I can understand the precaution against "false hope" and the utter importance of helping me to understand that my life was forever changed, but to withhold even the possibility, the opportunity, for life recovery (twice my husband had to battle for a chance for me to even receive therapy rather than being shipped off to a nursing home) is simply cruel and inhumane!

My eyes are the most massive miracle here, other than God's work in my spirit. My degree of eye paralysis and dis-synchronization in February of last year  (4 months after the strokes) was still so bad that the doctor hoped that maybe my vision might finally be stable enough by sometime in 2013 to attempt a surgery to improve the muscular function of my eyes. It wasn't even an if, but rather a given, that surgery would be a necessity as soon as my eyes were better enough to even try. By late June (not quite five months later) my vision was already "too good" to even consider surgery! Wow! Only God! My eye specalist has never seen anything else like this.

I still have enough peripheral and backwards double vision that I do not feel ready to attempt to drive yet (maybe eventually, maybe I never will?) even though I had my license restored over a year ago. For the most part, I am learning to be O.K. with this, though there are moments with three kids, that it sure would be helpful to have two drivers in the family again! Thank you, Mom, for up-ending your life and running the tires (literally) off your car, to get me to all my appointments. We are down to usually just once or twice a week most weeks now (plus the gym), a far cry from 1-3 appointments per day, when I came home, or even about 3 per week, just a month or so ago!

My hearing has been my biggest disappointment of this whole journey. Three surgeries now, each that has slightly improved over the function I had by the last, but even my ENT was discouraged when he ran my hearing test last week. Yes, on paper, technically, we are seeing slight improvement with these surgeries, but for all intensive purposes, I am still deaf in that left ear, as far as real, functional hearing is concerned. Even what little volume improvement we have regained, my brain nerves can't seem to readily interpret what I actually do hear, so most sounds only serve to further confuse.

My right ear is much better than the left, but still pretty noticeably impaired as well. As long as I can see your lips (the telephone is a nightmare!) and put your words into a conversational context, I usually get along pretty well, though so of my major blunders are quite profound and fodder for standing jokes in our house now! I've simply given up trying to follow most television shows as I can no longer read fast enough that closed captioning really even helps much. It is still frustrating that our insurance considers hearing aids to be a non-medical necessity

Amazingly, I have very little facial droop / paralysis. From that standpoint, I don't think I "look" like a stroke survivor. I can't ride a bike and didn't realize what a profound disappointment this would be for me, especially without driving either. We have several other financial priorities first, but eventually I hope there is a way to obtain an adult tricycle which should  compensate for many of my balance defits that prevent me from riding a traditional bike.

My left arm is weak, uncoordinated and clumsy, but does offer me a bit of function for certain tasks. Again this is an unexpected blessing I don't take lightly. I can hit my right against my left (and hold my left steady enough) hard enough to make sound to clap my hands now.

I am in constant pain in my neck, jaw, shoulder, hand, left leg, and / or entire left side, but I had over two decades of learning to cope with another kind of chronic pain (from an unrelated illness) before the strokes, so while this pain is very different, I feel I have some advantage here. I don't like it, but can generally just say, "It is what it is."

My kids are living at home and are great for my recovery with the mental challenges that parenting presents (not to mention the emotional boost of just their presence). There are unique frustrations to being a younger stroke survivor, but I realize how easily these little miracles might have never been in my life at all, and I am thankful!

Still no word on school plans for our 10-year-old (school starts in a week and a half) but we know God has a perfect plan there, either for us to receive a phone call for school enrollment within the next ten days, or for Princess R. and me to have a one-on-one bonding year while giving her individualized focus here at home. We shall see...

My husband and I are about to celebrate 21 years of marriage this month. This too is a miracle that easily might not have been. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you that our marriage was on terribly shaky ground at that point. There have been some grit-your-teeth, determined, making-a-choice-to-love-you-right-now days (on both sides), but God is rebuilding and restoring. Looking back, I'm in awe for all the ways Rick has championed for me over the past couple of years and I am so very thankful (and emotionally, very much "in love" again) to still have this man at my side, knowing how easy, how tempting it was, that he could have, and by the world's standards, should have, bailed long ago.

Spiritually, there is too much transformation to even give it justice in attempting to share. Sufice it to say, God has been knocking down idols in my heart, often very good, God-given joys that I had gradually allowed to take up too much importance in my life. I likely never would have recognized, certainly not to this extent, how incredible my Father's love for me, had I not lost so much that I held so dear in this process! I think the experience is summed up well in this verse:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. - Philippians 4:11-12

2 comments:

  1. So many thoughts...first, you can't cry, while I am a blubbering fool. Laughing...I told my kids it is either laugh or cry and I am tired of crying, so I laugh when I'm mad. I literally can't hold emotions in since the strokes, so I laugh at very inappropriate times.

    As far a medical gloom and doom...I had hubby and 1 physical therapist who didnt want to give up and just stick me in a nursing home. I so feel ya there.

    Writing 15 pages blows my mind. I know it is different because the strokes affected my dominant side...but I can hardly write a paragraph without my hand cramping up....and it is chicken scratch at best.

    Happy Anniversary!


    ...and so much else I can't remember it all.

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  2. Happy Anniversary. I totally understand your feelings. Loving you, and praying for you.

    ReplyDelete