Update: Stroke of Grace has become In Darkness Sing and has moved to JenniferSaake.com.

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. Stroke of Grace became In Darkness Sing in early 2018 and has moved, along with all five of Jennifer's active blogs, to one location at JenniferSaake.com.

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, October 18, 2013

nearly 24 Months

Since I have specific plans for an important part of my story to share on my actual 24-month landmark date, in about a week, I figured today would be my progress report to give you a picture of where I'm at nearly two years. (And lots of cute or funny pictures that make me giggle too!)

ALL. THE. TIME! - From Facebook

Physically, pain had elevated very high, but I don't know if is a direct answer to prayer, if it is because the weather isn't fluctuating all over, if it is because sickness has kept me from the gym so much so there isn't so much additional stress on my body, because we finally have worked around some successful medication level adjustments, some combination of all of this, or something else all together, but while I still hurt, the massive pain storm that was so all consuming a few weeks ago, finally seems to have calmed a lot. Praise the Lord! (Or course, tripping in the dark one night this week and crashing against a sliding glass door got me neurologically stirred up again, but I think the elevated pain levels are momentary and directly related to that fall right now.)

Me! From Facebook. :)

An oddity that isn't really problematic, but seems worth noting at this landmark, is that I have yet to fall asleep one night since the stroke without a spasmic clenching of my abdominal muscles just as I'm yielding to the night's grasp. Not terribly painful, typically, but quite predictable now. Kind of a forceful, "knock-the-wind-out-of-you" involuntary sensation. You would think I should have rock hard abs by now! If only... No one has been able to explain this particular phenomena to me. It has lessened in number of nightly reps since the hospital (3-5 most nights now), but doesn't seem to be much less intense in strength of muscle contraction when it does happen.


In swimming, I still tend to rely on hearing a splash to let me know if my left leg has broken the surface of the water or not. Usually, I get enough of a kick to break the water now, but when I don't hear that splash, I know that even if the movement felt just the same, I didn't quite make it that time. I have regained feeling of that leg, but I guess not very full feeling as I don't really know quite where it is without looking or auditory clues still. My coaches are amazed at how well I can swim compared to any other movement I attempt. We have pretty well concluded that it just has to do with the specific areas of the brain damaged and the specific areas working on compensation.


I usually manage to cope quite well with constant dizziness. In fact, I usually don't even realize what I tune out now unless I stop to think about it. Every now and then, it buts its way, uninvited, back into my conscious world again, like when I swam the length of the pool, earlier this month (with a floatation device) and had to wait it out at the deep end of the pool for a few minutes before vision cleared enough, stopped swirling enough, that I could see well enough to make my return trip down the length of the pool again. Any movement that involves turning my head side-to-side (like swimming), or flipping it down lower than my shoulder (like bending over to reach for something in a lower cabinet) sets my world especially spinning! I still (over 2 weeks now) haven't been able to really kick this cold yet and have noticed I've been much more dizzy (probably why I tripped over my own feet a few nights ago) than usual, the whole time I've been fighting congestion and plugged ears!


Mouth numbness seems to be somewhat resolving in most areas, but like that left leg that isn't quite where I think it should be much of the time, even though the left of my mouth has feeling again, in most areas, I guess it really isn't terribly "normal" feeling yet, as I managed to make the gums bleed around EVERY tooth on that side when I thought I was brushing them with what felt like regular pressure with a new toothbrush this month. I guess I can feel just enough to know when I'm making contact now, if that contact is forceful enough! There is still a pretty profound "burned taste buds" feeling on much of the left side of my mouth.


I do not have the strength to chew most things on the left side of my mouth. Chewing everything on the right sure makes my jaw tired over there! I think double demand on that joint is hard on it as it frequently "pops" now, so I think right TMJ has decided to join left TMJ and TN issues. I  can open my mouth fairly wide now, but I still get surprised by a painful jaw that just won't quite open as far as it used to in order to try certain big bites.


My left arm is weak, slow and clumsy, but has regained fairly good range of motion and much large motor function. When I am stressed or concentrating, I often curl it up against my chest and can't use it much at all. Even when I am fairly relaxed, it tends to be least painful, more comfortable, to have it there, but so far I can move it just about anywhere I want if I'm not too stressed. I am forcing myself to crawl the length of our hall a few times each day (even though this is discouragingly HARD, I highly recommend to fellow strokies if you are physically capable of attempting!) and my arm still wants to collapse under my own weight but already feels a little stronger than when I started this routinely, just a week ago. My shoulder is still quite painful at times, but typically isn't falling out of joint finally! :)


Left hand grasp strength is still hit and miss (one day I can shakily lift a milk jug out of the refrigerator, and later that day I can't hold onto a piece of paper without it sliding through my fingers). Quick movements are often possible while longer endurance (like getting the milk carried a few steps over to the table with my left) still isn't a possibility. I can leave the living room with a firm grasp on a shoe, but half way down the hall to the bedroom, it thunks to the floor if I'm trying to carry with that left hand. Otherwise, if I do manage to get a grasp on something, I'm likely to do damage, crush it, or not be able to release when I'm trying to let go. Fine motor skills are still lacking! Two years after the fact, I still can't cut my own meat.


Quick movements are also my redemption when it comes to writing with my right (less stroked!) hand. When I take my time and try especially hard, my writing is huge and looks like a child still. When I go fast and just let the pen flow, I usually write much more neatly and smaller, getting close to being somewhat like pre-stroke hand writing. When I type (also only with my right), I have to be quick to let my figure fly on instinct or I fumble much more when I try to take my time. It is odd, but it seems that the less carefully I strive to do something, the more likelihood of a better outcome, though, because I am always trying to do things hard and fast, when I do blunder, the messes are huge!


I talk about quick movements, and yet almost everything I do still takes me much longer than it used to. I think to any observer, I am agonizingly slow at just about everything!


I am just starting to be able to get up on my heals or tiptoes, on dry land a bit. Jumping (even a little height) still isn't really coming along yet (unless I'm holding on to a counter edge), though this month I have had several jumping successes in the water! Running still isn't remotely an option.


The last surgery did seem to really help with the pain in my ear (it took several weeks for the surgical pain to subside first) and it seems to even be helping my face/jaw a bit too! Hearing, I want to say I've regained a TINY bit more hearing on that side, but realistically I think it is mostly a matter of I'm sometimes better able to harness what little hearing I DO have and use it more effectively sometimes. I still have a really difficult time placing direction of sounds. I still have to have my husband repeat anything he might say if I have my good ear toward the pillow when he talks (and since my jaw and ear usually hurt too much to sleep with weight on my left side, usually the right is muffled into a pillow at night). I can hear he is making some sound, just no idea what that sound might mean unless I can listen with my good ear, preferably while reading lips.


I like to sleep with my legs curled up, kind of a fetal position. But if I don't keep that left leg extended and stretched out straight, it tends to start hurting more, pretty quickly. It also is much more likely to twitch and kick and jump involuntarily. So I have to make a conscious effort to extend it each night.


Likewise, there are only a couple of positions that work for my left arm and don't do any of the above or wake me up numb, tingling, or with my neck/shoulder burning and screaming in pain.


I am down about 12-14 pounds from my highest weight, 6-8 pounds of that since I joined the gym 14 months ago. I am thankful that the scales are slowly headed in a downward direction, but is it ever a battle! I'm still listening to The Listening Program (music therapy) twice a day and am still awaiting my turn at vocal training. I will be seeing a podiatrist on the 31st to have the cyst on my right foot (probably from carrying my weight so unevenly since the strokes) evaluated again.

Sweet. <3 Found on Facebook.

My face is dramatically clearer than it was this time a year ago. The acne I do get is typically just on my face (and some on shoulders and back of neck), but doesn't tend to go crazily all over my neck and shoulders and face now. I still get about 3-5 new, very large, very deep, very painful new zits, always almost exclusively on the left side of my face now, cyclically every month. They are bad enough  that one batch is just drying out and healing (no longer very painfully, but still dry and scabby) when the new month's crop comes up. Yesterday I went from a little tender area when I woke up to a huge red and painful lump at bedtime last night that had developed two HUGE white heads by this morning. I gave a BUNCH of infected yuck this morning, but still makes me want to cry when I talk or smile or eat or blow my nose. I can tell the sore is filling back up and is SO sore. Now I have another tender little spot about an inch away. Wonder what it will be like by tomorrow. I am working on drying up huge scabs on my chin and cheek from last month still.
I have my first significant wrinkle now. Surprisingly it is over my LEFT eye! I figured my left side would be slower to wrinkle than the right because, while not terribly paralyzed or droopy, the muscles are quite lax there. But, strangely enough, it is precisely because that left is compromised, that above the left eye that I describe as looking "botoxed" (is paralyzed enough to stay really, really wide open in pictures, not blink evenly with the right, etc.) that there is a strip of more normally functioning muscle about half way up my forehead and the pucker is forming right where the low tone muscle intersects with the stronger one. I look like I have a worry line up there, but only on the one side. Pretty funny how I go from an area of little control over my face right into a spot of pretty full tone!


Quote of the day (I don't know anything about the author, but like the words): We must begin by admitting that people and situations do not cause us to speak as we do. Our hearts control our words. People and situations simply provide the occasion for the heart to express itself. ~ Paul David Tripp
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. - Romans 8:23

Good to know. From Facebook.


  1. Thanks for the update. I made those little pumpkins...took me all day long, but I did it...check my blog.

    1. I saw yours the day after I saw this on FB. So cute!