Update: The In Darkness Sing blog at JenniferSaake is experiencing prolonged technical issues, so I'm temporarily posting back here on my old Stroke of Grace blog.

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.

Jennifer 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. (Please see above temporary update note above!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013


What to say about today...

OK, here's a big one for me. I think the first day I'm actually saying these specific words. I am thankful to be alive. This isn't to say that I'm still not convinced I would have been better off if I had died two years ago, but it is a declaration that I'm joyfully embracing all God still has for me here, thankful for my husband, my children, my parents, my friend, the very gift of time. May my days be never squandered, always to His glory! For this opportunity, I am finally ready to voice the words that have been terribly slow and fragmented in coming, "I am thankful to be alive."


Two years ago, my goal had been to progress well enough in therapy, including doing "family training" to learn how to help me transfer from bed to wheel chair to toilet and so forth, to be able to have a few hours visit back home for Thanksgiving. Instead I had more strokes and ended up on several days of doctor ordered bed rest, more scans, an MRI where the tech and my nurse were both shocked by my wild head bobbing that they typically only saw in severe injury car accidents, then finally the decision was made on that Wednesday that I did need emergency surgery to repair the tear in my artery that keep clotting and causing more strokes.


What happened next could only be counted as miraculous. There was no doctor locally who could even attempt my delicate surgery. I tried to imagine a six-hour drive to a larger hospital in California, picturing myself riding over in the back seat of our car, but in reality I'm sure everyone else was probably making ambulance ride plans, since I was still on an IV, antibiotics (but had an antibiotic infection), still actively throwing blood clots, and was probably much too medically fragile to even consider a car ride since I required an ambulance just to travel the half block between hospitals still), but a car loaded with pillows was the solution that seemed logical to me!

Then, we learned that both the doctor I would have been driving to see in California AND a Christian anesthesiologist (married to one of the moms in our homeschooling community, so he had already been praying for me for a month already) were both scheduled to be in Reno and on call at our hospital the next day! So I was slated for semi-emergency surgery in my own hospital, first thing the next (Thanksgiving) morning. The doctor normally came over to Reno for a few days, once per month, and as God would have it, these were his scheduled few days that November! So I could get the same level of care as if I had traveled to a big hospital, but without the travel!

At 7am I was wheeled into OR. I woke sometime after noon and remember telling my mom I wouldn't be coming to her house for dinner that day. I don't think Rick or my parents really celebrated Thanksgiving that day (other than that I was still alive and had come through surgery without further damage) either.
As I later learned, I had actually undergone two complete surgeries that morning, as the first arterial stent had been successful, they closed up my surgical site and were bringing me out of anesthesia, only to witness the artery bulging and threatening to rupture again, a little higher above that first surgical site. To prevent yet another, fairly instantaneous stroke, they had to quickly put me fully under again, puncture the other side of my groin, and feed a second stent up to the injured artery.
That night back in ICU was miserable as I was on NBM (nothing by mouth) orders and my orders got mixed up in the long holiday weekend, so I went over 24 hours without even receiving IV fluids. Post surgically, with a huge (quarter inch?) arterial line hanging out of my arm (looked like a THICK IV line, but directly into the artery in my wrist, not connected to any fluid input, but a blood-filled tube somehow related to my surgeries that morning) and two large, painful groin punctures I was dehydrated and BEGGING for fluids but the visiting rotational nurse wouldn't even double check on why my records did not order her to hook up the IV line that was already in my other arm to the bag of fluids hanging right over my head. When my mom and the on-call doctor both got there in the morning, they were livid at my neglect overnight! When the dressing was changed on my groin punctures, both leg arteries tried to bleed out, so this huge male nurse was throwing all his body weight onto the incisions to get them sealed back up. Some of the worst memories of my hospital stays, but thankful that's behind me!

Day ? of 100 (haven't done it yet, will edit in later), so happy Thanksgiving!
John 14:27 “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Doctor Won't Tell You

I've tried to come up with ways to word this delicately, but potty talk is simply not a delicate topic and I've now talked, one on one, with way too many people (just in the past week!) to think it is a random or isolated issue among stroke survivors. So here, in tell-it-all style, I need to blab out what your doctor may never tell you (may not really even know) about stroke recovery, directly from the personal experiences of stroke survivors. Take it for what you pay for it. ;)

OK, so here's my experience and theory resulting from both personal observation and multiple discussions with other individuals. Post-stroke weight gain seems to be a nearly universal struggle amongst survivors with much ongoing physical deficits (after an initial period of loss when the body is burning massive amounts of calories just to sustain basic life functions). I gained around 50 pounds in the months following the hospital. I needed to gain some of that since I had lost somewhere between 10-20 pounds in the hospital (again, need to obtain records to exactly know how much) from my ideal weight (that I had just battled down to and bought a new jacket in celebration, the week before the first strokes), and have managed to drop about 6 more pounds through a year and a half of dedicated diet and exercise. But I regain quite easily now and just BATTLE to ever see the scales move downward.

Because of my kidney stones, a recent abdominal x-ray revealed significant, chronic constipation and at least half of my colon filled with compacted fecal matter. Strangely, I have a daily bowl movement and rarely have any symptoms of a sluggish digestive system now, have even gradually dropped the strong stool softeners I've taken since the hospital, because thing were SO MUCH better than they used to be that I truly didn't even think I needed them any more.  Or as one of the first friends who shared her experiences with me was told in therapy, she was FOS (full of... draw your own conclusions from the abbreviation) as we both had significant issue with intestinal paralysis and trouble (often days and days between) producing any bowl movements in the hospital.

I've talked to several other friends who confirm internal paralysis. I think when we think of stroke, even survivors, we go to the obvious, like drooped face, clenched hand, dragged foot, and easily ignore (even doctors tend to, in my experience) that the whole body is likely impacted, both externally and internally! Ever wonder why speech is so impacted for some? For many there are brain issues and language processing problems, but in some of us, these issues are either paired with and complicated by, or simply attributed entirely to, internal paralysis of the throat and/or voice box! So it really shouldn't come as much of a surprise that other internal systems can struggle. One friend (about a 12-year survivor) even shared that when her colon was compromised she was "toxic" and fought chronic hives, but once she eventually got her digestive system to clear, she stopped having hives and lost 40 pounds! In light of all this, my theory is that stroke often causes chronic constipation and as the colon builds up, weight also climbs and can't be easily just dieted or exercised away.

It would seem that the simple solution would be frequent colon cleanses then? My word of caution here, only drawing on my own experience and one friend's (since these really aren't conversations I strive to routinely bring up ;) ) is that when you mess with a paralyzed colon, there is little in-between constipation and violent diarrhea. :( This word of experience-gleaned caution is offered even without prescription intervention, but only natural softeners like prunes. Sorry for grossing out most of my readership, but if someone had explained all this to me, I would have really appreciated it, so I'm hoping to help out at least one person here.

And to answer one frequent question, yes I take good probiotics and have done so for years, even before the strokes, but made extra sure I am on really good, high quality, high strength, live ones now, as this is also critical for brain health in injury recovery!

While we are talking "tell-all," please humor me in speaking about sex for a moment. I would love personal feedback as research for my book. Please feel free to use my email address posted in the right sidebar if you don't want to reply publically. Basically I had read, repeatedly, that stroke either pretty much kills desire (like NO desire/excitement ever, or just a few times per year) OR really heightens it (like would prefer an average of 3-4 times per day). No one offered an explanation or prediction other than to say it had to do with the particular areas of brain damage experienced by an individual. (Duh!) There is also the physical aspect or simple post-stroke ability to consider here, which may or may not always align with the "98% of sexual experience organ" between the ears. I'm not even talking physical here, just mental/emotional/pure chemical desire.

So out of an informal, non-scientific, peer survey of actual stroke survivors (about 500 Facebook users in my stroke group questioned, maybe 30 publically replied to the thread to share experiences (and share they did, sometimes rather more information than non-strokies would want to know!), and no, for once, this topic was not launched by me, but I sure learned a lot through the replies!), it would seem that there is a fairly pronounced general pattern within respondents that left-side brain damage typically caused loss of drive, whereas right brain injury seemed to generally significantly raised both desire and frequency. I would be remiss in stating this as a hard and fast rule, just a rather consistent observation reported within this small sample group who were willing to speak of their experiences. Even then there were exception on both sides of the fence, just a general trend that was quite noticeable. This also doesn't account for the emotions and experiences of a spouse who may have their own significant drive changes to cope with as they witness physical and emotional changes within their partners. Still, I found this information rather insightful and wonder at the validity in the wider strokie population and, if it generally holds true, why no one else has seems to have ever documented the specifics before???

Thanksgiving week, last November, I posted about how I was jumping for joy, how I had actually managed to get both feet off the ground in a jump while holding on to a stability bar at therapy. I've been able to typically manage jumping for a full year now, but holding on to something with both hands. During this 100 Days experiment, I've gotten brave and even managed a few one-handed jumps.
Yesterday, I caught my very first no-handed jump on video, that I managed to replicate about 20 times, off camera, throughout the evening last night! I often still leave my left foot behind, either all together still on the ground or simply not as high off the ground as the right, but I just didn't even have the balance to accomplish this at all, when I woke up yesterday morning!
I did get both feet off the ground when I'm not tired out, a fair percentage of the time, by the end of last night. I tried multiple times for my family last night. My record was three times in a row, though if I didn't take several minutes rest breaks after attempts, I could not do it again even once. My left leg shook like crazy by the second, and especially third jump attempts, but I did it! I still have several moments of hesitation between the time my body sends the message to jump and my body follows through with the action, but I have hope that this will refine and smooth out with time. Last night, for the first time, my seven-year-old and I even dared chat about our dreams of jump-roping together some day! :)
I just saw my urologist. He says my x-rays seemed to have shown some movement in my stone, likely why I bled so much last week, and he's giving me until December 10th to pass the stone on my own before he wants to talk surgery. When we talked about the dark red / black urine last week, he said it would be rare to bleed so much as to need a transfusion or anything and that he has never seen that in his entire career. I told him that given my history, if he is looking to see something unique like that, I'm pretty likely to be his exception to the rule. His instruction is that I am "not to go big" with this medical adventure. ;) I asked him if the amount of bleeding I was seeing was common and he was quick to admit that this much blood is far from common, but still not to a point that terribly concern him yet.
I just received the un-blinded results of the drug study I participated in late in 2012. The weeks I had (as had my doctors and medical team) been sure I had been on the actual drug, and the weeks I had been positive I had been on placebo, were, according to the records, exactly opposite of what we were convinced. What's a little encouraging is my worse, pretty scary, reactions were actually during the placebo weeks, so if I get accepted into the next phase of the study (where there shouldn't even be a placebo component, just a long-term drug usage study), the scariest risks shouldn't even be a problem! Talk about having the rug pulled out from under you with the reality though!
Day 11 of 100
If I'm seeing these results in just 11 days of consistent effort to reach my goal, I'm excited to see day 100!
Lamentations 3:21-23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Look, No Hands!

I wanted to share these 15 Tips for Holidays With TBI for any other friends trying to regain normalcy after brain injury. I hope this helps someone!

Because the timing of his story is so close to my own, and his recovery seems pretty much on track with mine, I am always excited when Steve Saint produces another video. Here was this week's message:
Steve Saint falls on stage on uses it to illustrate his point.

I managed one jump with NO HANDS (holding on to the walker) today!

Day 10 of 100
Psalm 56:8-11 “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Monday, November 25, 2013

25 Months

November 25, 2013, 25 months since I first stroked. This Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) marks 2 years since the morning of my double surgeries that would finally put an end to my month of ongoing stroking.
This morning my mom and I took my daughter to the orthodontist. Tomorrow (my dad's 71st birthday), Lord willing, we go up to the school to have "stone soup" with my second grader before birthday dinner in the evening. Wednesday, we plan to see my urologist about my kidney stone again. Thursday, the plan is to spend Thanksgiving Day with my in-laws, as we should have been doing two years ago. Other than not having a driver's license, thing are rather blissfully, normal, boring at this point. We will see by next month if I still feel a need to continue with every month updates or not?
Day 9 of 100
Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”

Saturday, November 23, 2013


In this article entitled Why I Called Out Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, I found this great little 10-minute video by John Piper that does a great job of defining what the Prosperity Gospel is and why it is so sinister.  I loved "There are healings that happen in this world! I don't deny that. But I deny vehemently that everybody will be healed!" Also the thought that this life is so brief and then eternity! This is basically what I concluded by the end of my multi-part exploration on faith and healing earlier this year and why this reality actually brings me more comfort than a Santa-Jesus or Genie-In-A-Bottle-God.

Our 13-year-old is at an (adult) computer programing conference this weekend. If you have Facebook, please head over to https://www.facebook.com/thebanana140 and "like" his group's competition project, a Twitter based platform for startups and new companies that don't have a dedicated customer support staff. Thanks so much for taking a tiny moment of your time to make a big impact in his life!
Rick is making about five round trips around town today to have all the kids at their correct places and times through the day. I'm glad we basically limit the kids to one extra curricular each year! It's another day where I really wish I were able to help out with the driving!
It's been a pretty quiet day with my kidney. Stone must not be trying to move at all, because there is basically no pain and no blood so far today. Thanks for your prayers!
Well, I just got out of the shower, so onto jumping, wet, stringy hair and all. ;)

Day 7 of 100
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. Matthew 5:3 (MSG) 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Emergency Room

Today is pretty much just a rest day for me (I wish it could be for Rick too, as he is utterly exhausted). We spent 5 hours (amazingly short, I think) at the ER last night. I got to see how very much my husband does NOT like hospitals now!!!

Bottom line, the stone is still stuck in there. The hospital nor urologist isn't freaked out by the amount of blood I've passed, even though it got so dark my urine was BLACK at one point yesterday and deep, vivid RED most of the rest of the day! After an IV of fluids, (one expensive bag of water!) they sent me home. I'm still in very little pain and the ER doctor said this is likely a reason to be thankful that the stone is on my primarily stroked side as I'm not feeling like I normally would! I'll see the urologist again next Wednesday (it will be about 4 weeks since this all started as yesterday was exactly 3 weeks since my first real symptoms) unless I spike a fever over 102 between now and then. I'm not too happy with the timing of any of this as I had my double arterial surgeries on Thanksgiving morning, just two years ago.

The biggest news last night was concerning my intestinal paralysis. Even though I hadn't realized it to be an ongoing issue, the doctor seemed more surprised and concerned about what he found with my digestive tract than he even was with my stone (since urine came back with no sign of infection and the other kidney seems to be functioning well). The good news is that we finally have a valid explanation of why I keep gaining weight and just refuse to loose. The bad news is I went to the hospital with one known issue and came home with two! Now to see what, if anything, can be done to compensate for this problem.
The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him. - Exodus 15:2
Day 6 of 100

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Then, Now and Maybe Tomorrow...

After reading this article on How to Imbed a Facebook Video, finding the HTML feature on Blogger and playing with the options on Facebook, I think I have semi-successfully edited an early walking video into my last post. For comparison, here's about where I still am now: around 16-months.

I've experience a fairly profound uptake in kidney stone symptoms since last night. I'm not sure what the evening will hold, possibly a trip to the ER. If I fall quiet for a few days, that's likely why.

I love the contrast of these two passages together, pointed out to me by a Facebook acquaintance this morning!

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Chris...t Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” -  1 Peter 5:8-11.


For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” - 2 Chron. 16:9
 Along the lines of this second verse, "Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear (respect) him, upon them that hope in his mercy" - Ps 33:18

I'm not sure that I fully agree with this statement theologically, but I do love the point of this quote, that God won't force us in any direction, just implore us to use the free will He provides to make choices for him: "The Devil votes against you, God votes for you - you cast the deciding vote!"

Quote: "Dear Lord, help me to not dwell on what went wrong in my past, but to look forward to what You want me to do right in my present and my future. Choose me. Send me. Use me." - Girlfriends In God on Crosswalk.com

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. - Psalm 33:11

Day 5 of 100

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


This video was taken in early March, 2012, so about 4 1/2 months after my initial strokes and about 20 1/2 months ago. I post it today because people who are just now meeting me just simply don't comprehend where we have come from. The two things that strike me in watching this (other than walking) is how much my hair has grown and how very blind I was then and how much my eyesight has improved since that day!

One of my favorite comments, even back last March, came from Melanie Lowery Limoges who wrote, "WOW!!!!! Way to go, Jenni!!! I am so amazed to see this. When I saw the title, I expected a few hesitant steps, but look at you go!! Praising God for your incredible progress..." A few hesitant steps had been about all I had been managing once I even got on my feet at all. This was such amazing progress that soon! (Though it sure was discouragingly slow and didn't feel at all "soon" at the time!)

So I've spent HOURS trying to come up with a way for non-Facebook friends to view this video. So far this is the best I can come up with, and at least it is visible now, but the video doesn't seem to want to play! If you ARE on Facebook, make sure you are logged in and then click on the word "video" below (top navigation bar) to immediately view. If you are NOT on Facebook, please let me know if you figure out a way to see this and what you did. I'm still working on editing to make it easier. If anyone has suggestions, please share!!!

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Day 4 of 100

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Answered Prayers

Last night I told my stroke group, "Kind of dreading going to bed tonight even though I am exhausted!

While talking answers to prayer, I need to tell you thank you for praying. I still have a stone, but my pain levels remain quite mild. I'm still bleeding into my urine so it is certainly not resolved and I feel the impact of over three weeks of this, in energy decline and general weakness, but hearing horror story after story, it could be SO MUCH worse. I'm very blessed to be on such an easy road, thus far! I've clogged two filters with the debris I'm passing, so this makes me hopeful that the stone is breaking up and passing rather painlessly? We'll see what the x-ray shows next week! 
Remember how I told you I had hardly eaten for two weeks? Another answer to prayer is that I have actually felt hungry and managed to keep food down this week! The downside is another two pounds of weight gain (and what I've been eating is not excessive and has generally been healthy), but at this point I figure that my body is so goofy after the strokes that weight is much less of a priority than health!

We are headed off to try to visit my friend Jonnie at the hospital this morning. The cyst in her brain has become debilitating enough that she can't even sit up without passing out now. :( She is about $7,000 away from being able to schedule surgery still (about $24,000 away from being able to pay for the entire surgery). Please pray!

 I went to a picnic where two different people told me they wouldn't know I had a stroke if I hadn't told them! "Sure, you walk with a cane, but lots of people do that, for lots of different reasons." Just wow!
Not because it has anything to do with why I stroked, but I want to keep this basic blood pressure information because it is information that I never can manage to keep straight, so that I can find it again next time I need it.
Quote:  Father, I may not always understand or like how You work in my life, but I want to grow to the place where I trust You anyway. When the hard times come, teach me to trust You fully.
Quote: “God doesn't owe you an explanation or reason for everything He asks you to do. Understanding can wait, but obedience can’t. Instant obedience will teach you more about God than a lifetime of Bible discussions. In fact, you will never understand some commands until you obey them first. Obedience unlocks understanding.” – Rick Warren, Purpose-Drive Life

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. - Psalm 56:3

Day 3 of 100

Monday, November 18, 2013


I'm not sleeping well the past week. After about a year of no dreaming that I can remember (I do well remember early dreams of trying to align pre- and post-stroke physical realities in the hospital and for the first few months after I came home, but my dream world had been blessedly quiet for many months now) , this week has been horrid, filled with vivid nightmares (lots of hospital flashbacks and more) and lots of sleepless hours. I wonder if all the uptake in REM sleep is healing (at least when I actually do sleep) to the brain, though, as my husband put it so well, "not to the soul"! Other than the kidney stone discomfort, I have no idea why my sleep patters might have so abruptly changed again?

One of the funnier dreams (though still stressful/upsetting enough to jolt me awake, drenched in sweat, by problem number three) was taking a college entrance exam and not being able to get into college because I can't tell you what an adjective does now (really, I can't, even awake, as most technical language ability was wiped out in the strokes) and because I couldn't name a specific city in Maryland (geographic knowledge was also hard hit by the strokes). I'm glad I woke up by the third question because test anxiety was high! It took about 10 minutes for my heart to slow its pounding once I awoke, enough for me to go clean up and slather on deodorant! I think this particular dream was spurred on my a few recent encouragements that I should go back to college (I really had no desire, even before the strokes!) and by recent testing and/or college-related projects my nephew (congratulations on your amazing score, D!), son (such a cool idea, can't wait to see it come to fruition, J) and daughter (way to go in taking 12th in state, girly!) were all involved with this past week. At least this one dream sort of makes scenes.

Give It 100 - Day 2 of 100
My sweet hubby really isn't sure about my 100-day plan. He isn't telling me not to try, he is just worried, wants to protect me, doesn't want me to hurt myself. I don't want to get hurt either! It's been two years of taking risks and pushing my limits though. I have terribly mixed emotions about this project now. As my physical therapist puts it, "It is scary to watch you try new things! It makes everyone uncomfortable to watch so we would be happier if you didn't try, but if you don't try you don't learn!"  I want to push the envelope but I want to honor my husband even more. If I knew I could do this for 100 days without ever hurting myself in the process, there would be little conflict in my heart. Since I don't know that, I am torn between the desire to better  myself, to prove myself, really, and the desire to protect the hearts of my loved ones. I want to show everyone that I can do this! Pride? (bad) Determination? (good) Some of each? (probably) Am I trying to do this in my own strength or Christ in me? Please pray that I make wise decisions here!
Proverbs 3:24
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.