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.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

When My Strength Is Gone

I'm 2 years out from my strokes and scheduled for RIGHT (less stroked) foot surgery on the Monday before Thanksgiving, because I'm growing a cyst out from a joint there. We think because I walk with such poor balance and put so much extra pressure on that (right foot) joint every day. I might ultimately need an AFO (ankle foot orthotic) to deal with left weakness to compensate and get some of the excess demand off the right, but for now I'm just trying to teach my body how to do all that on its own so I avoid the AFO. I have developed bone spurs at the base of both big toes because of the way I hold my feet and apply pressure to them. We are going to start with this surgery and a specialized stretching out and dimpling of all my shoes to take shoe pressure off the this part of my feet.

If I ever need to go to an AFO, it would be a big, hard piece of plastic that is custom fitted to go under the foot, sometimes has a metal joint at the ankle, I believe, then goes up the back and sides of the leg, about 2/3 of the way up the calf. I have a friend who had to get shoes two sixes larger than normal in order just to fit over her AFO. Because I avoided one this long (many people were wearing theirs clear back in the hospital), I didn't think I would ever need one. What convinced me I might have to consider one was that my foot/ankle failed three out of four directions of strength testing at my orthopedic office this week. He was pretty amazed that I have so much paralysis in my foot still and yet walk as well as I do.

In my last post I wrote that, "What I've been calling my "3rd stroke," during that week or so down in the neuro wing of the main hospital (the one stroke I most vividly remember and was most upsetting to experience), was actually my 4th stroke." I also wrote, "I seem to "recall" (dreamed?) one of my doctors at the main hospital saying my "third" (really 3rd event, 4th stroke) stroke wasn't even a stroke, but it was the most traumatic, stroke-like memory I retain, unable to move anything other than one blurry eye for several hours, drowning in my own non-stop vomit, incredibly "see sick" spinning and flipping sensation. If that wasn't another stroke, what was it???"

I remember how that event did me in, made me loose the will to fight any longer. My husband locked my one good eye with his and challenged, "Don't you give up on me now!" Between his words and our worship pastor getting there to pray with me right after that MRI (when I couldn't open my eyes, make any noise, move a muscle, or in any way even let him know I knew he was there) I found some courage and the Lord offered me supernatural strength when I was beyond all of my reserves. The amazing flood of mailbox encouragement over the next weeks, God also used to keep pulling me through when my "fight" was fought out. These things were the tangible tools God used in answer to your prayers, why I'm still alive today. If God used you even to whisper one prayer, drop one card in the mail, thank you for your obedience.

So, I may (or may not) have found the answer to, "If that wasn't another stroke, what was it???" I still think of it as a stroke, but I did find one other possibility through online research. Perhaps what I had believed to be a stroke was actually a sympathetic storm of the nervous system (potentially fatal and brain damaging, in and of its own right), a symptom of the massive brain damage I had already sustained??? This could fit as it was the first time I had gotten out of bed and tried to walk with assistants (2 rather than 4) after I came from ICU to the neuro floor. I can see how this easily could have taxed and overloaded my brain! If so, boy am I glad it was the only "storm" I ever recall (maybe there were others prior, but this is the only one of this kind of reaction that I remember). I guess I just won't know for sure until I get those records.

Back to the topic of cards, I should tell you more of that story! I have a big cardboard box that has been sitting in my living room since the day I came home from the hospital. I'm not ready to pack it away yet. Inside are over 130 expressions of love and prayer that my mom and husband brought me from their mail boxes to my hospital room for weeks. They became the source of a standing joke between Rick and I because I moved rooms SO many different times and EVERY time I was moved, the task to take them all down from the old room and rehang them in the new room, fell to Rick, even if I was only in a room for a matter of hours before I was moved yet again.

The cards brought me such joy, both as I opened each of them and told my mom or Rick about the person who sent them, and between memory loss and such poor eyesight, as I tried to identify them again each day and make up stories about the "horses" and "whales" and other pictures I thought I was seeing. But not only did God use your cards to bring me blessing, strength and encouragement to keep fighting, the most exciting result was the impact they had on hospital staff who continually commented on how I must be so loved and who wanted to know more about my friends and how so many of you came to encourage me. This even lead to a couple of opportunities to talk to people about the Lord, one nurse's assistant in particular.

My left jaw joint was apparently knocked unhinged (possibly a result of intubation, exacerbated by significant muscle weakness from the strokes themselves) when I stroked. I woke up in horrid face/jaw pain because it triggered TN (Trigeminal neuralgia) as well. Finally, we have therapied it back into place so there is "just" TMJ pain with the TN. The right side is having TMJ now too, after two years of doing pretty much all my mouth work. Yes, "fun" with CPS too. But, I've gone from not being able to open my mouth more than a sliver at first to almost full range of motion now!

As of yesterday, I've been headed deep into my current book draft to try to find out where I have stalled out and how to get back on track. Prayers appreciated!!! - Harvesting Hope from Heartache

Quote of the day: "We can’t look to our feelings to determine truth. We must look to truth to reign in our feelings." - Lysa TerKeurst

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him... - Job 13:15


  1. An afo changed so much for me! Once I learned to trust it, things really changed. The goal is to eventually get a smaller off the shelf type that lets me wear more regular shoes.

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