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. Jenni remained hospitalized until 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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Learning Contentment

From Facebook
My "baby" boy is a high schooler now. We attended 8th grade graduation last night. *proud sigh* He did incredibly well adapting to 8th grade in a traditional classroom, joining the system half way through the school year. I told him that I felt like it was "our" 8th grade graduation, as I had overseen his entire educational career up until my strokes and even again for the first half of this school year.

When we got there, the gym was decorated in lots of balloons. My previous latex reaction flared up, the worst it has been since my week in the ICU (where a "latex free" hospital had to order special catheters just to meet my needs). I was in the gymnasium only a matter of seconds before my stoked eye was burning and watering. Soon the entire left side of my mouth, anywhere that the feeling hasn't totally normalized yet, basically that entire side of my mouth) felt like that significant "burning" sensation you might know from when an arm or leg "falls asleep" and looses blood flow long enough that it hurts to get circulation going in it again, more than just annoying prickles or pins and needles, but actual pain.


I took a Benadryl when my throat started to tighten and right eye started to burn and water too and even the right side of my mouth started feeling funny. I also moved my Epi-Pen to the top of my purse, for easy access if the reaction continued to progress, but thankfully never needed to use it. This kind of thing so frustrates me because I am not wanting nor trying to draw attention to myself and get so tired of always being the one to cause problems. I just wanted to enjoy my son's moment in the spotlight!!! I wanted to cry at the though I might need to leave.

Next I had a full-on TN attack, the worst I have yet to experience. Not sure what I am talking about? This video explains.


This (along with the left side of my eye and face being my first alerts to danger) was a new post-stroke facet to my reaction. It was bad enough I asked my mom to dig through her purse to see if she had any Tylenol. She only had Aleve (that I haven't taken since the stroke due to the stroke risk warning on the bottle, even though this would be totally unrelated to my cause of strokes), but I was desperate enough that I took one.
From Facebook
Hearing, that I normally would have expected to be quite diminished during this episode, actually seemed to be heightened, was intensified to a painful level. I actually had to plug my "bad" ear because the sound of the crowd prior to the start of the event was too intense for me to process. Fortunately, this symptom began to settle about 15-20 minutes into the graduation.


My mouth is still more painful and numb than normal, today, but so much better than last night. But the throat relaxed with about 10-15 minutes of the dose of Benadryl and the intense pain in my eye/ear/face/jaw started subsiding after about 1/2 hour. I still have a bit of a sore throat today, but no breathing concerns.
Thank you, so much, to our friend Melanie (and to her husband, Seb, and this year to her young son as well), who have made sure at least one family member has run the Never Quit 5 K in Florida each year since Kendra and I stroked, in our honors.What a humbling blessing!
From Facebook
We had a frustrating situation (that left my mom and a giggling so much in the bathroom, we thought we would get kicked out of the lab today). My blood draws often take multiple pokes and sometimes up to an hour. Today, I had a new phlebotomist and (praise the Lord!) she got all my blood successfully drawn in a matter of minutes, on her first poke! The problem came with my urine sample that I simply could not manage to collect. As I've told my husband, I still have major problems when it comes to peeing on demand.

When I've got to go, I've got to go. If I'm someone tells me I must and I'm thinking about it and need to go, I can't. I think this comes from all those weeks in the hospital when I could only attempt to use the restroom on the nurse's schedule and often couldn't go by the time my call button was answered, even if I really had a full bladder by then. "Shy bladder" the nurses called it. Today, the lab tech had gone on and on about how much urine I needed to collect for her. I told my mom that my bladder was so full that I easily should have been able to give her the sample as soon as we got there, but the more the nurse emphasized the need and the amout, the more stressed and anxious I grew. By the time I tried, I couldn't go at all.

I asked my mom to come in and run water and tried all the tricks I know, but nothing was working. I tried twice, both before and after the blood draw and after drinking about six cups full of water. At one point in the giggle fest I asked my mom, "So how am I going to blog this one?" That question just got us laughing all the harder, still without the needed result.

Finally we ended up leaving the lab, running some errands, and taking my little cup with us to bring back to the lab by the deadline an hour away. On the way home from the lab, after our successful (finally!) delivery, I turned to my mom and said, "Now I need to go to the bathroom!" The rest of the day I could have filled a boatload of those little cups! I now have a supply of cups of my own so I can collect at home and bring to the lab the next time I need to.

From Pintrest
I told the lab tech what has become a standard line for me, all of the past 19 months, but especially the last few weeks. "It is what it is." I don't remember ever hearing that saying before, but in searching the web, lots of other people seem to say it too, so I guess I can't claim it as my own, like I thought I could. To me, this is acknowledging the reality of whatever given situation, but also recognizing my own inability to change things in so very many cases. I am learning that much of the time I can fight (usually without any change) what I don't like, or I can relax and roll with the ebbs and flow and hard knocks of life. Relaxing ultimately tends to be much more productive, less painful in the long run.

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Philippians 4:11-12 "Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little."

Friday, May 24, 2013

19 Months Tomorrow

Tomorrow is 19 months. Time to stop saying that my strokes happened "a year and a half" ago. Well, technically, I guess I still could as it was about 18 months ago (Thanksgiving morning, 2011) when I had underwent two surgeries that marked the end of the ongoing strokes.

I just went back and re-read most of my blog. I am so thankful to have the written record as events unfolded. I had forgotten some of those thing even happened, or how bad the situation and/or my emotions were at various times. I could read through eyes of amazement at just what has really transpired over the past 19 months.

So where am I today? I noticed a tend over the month more and more offering updates on my spiritual and emotional states. While I absolutely need to focus on these, today I will record current physical landmarks so I can refer to all this in the future as well.

Eyes: They are doing amazingly well. My mom and I were just talking this week about how wonderful and unplanned it has been that my sight has been restored so much and I've been able to avoid surgery this spring. I still have doubled vision peripherally or even if I turn my neck (don't have as much mobility there as I should) to try to look over my shoulders. So basically I only have usable sight from a few inches in front of my shoulders and forward. Otherwise I have to rotate my entire body if I want to look elsewhere, and since such movements still make me quite dizzy, I have to totally stop whatever else I'm doing at the time (like walking) to be able to actually take a look at anything that is not directly in front of me (or that even is in front, but is above or below my normal field of vision). What I can see in front of me is slowly getting a little less than 20/20 perfection, but I still haven't even needed to go back to the glasses I was wearing before the stroke. What is becoming less crystal-clear, I am considering returning more and more toward my pre-stroke "normal," so may actually be a sign of continued healing, from that standpoint.



Left Jaw/Face/Neck/Shoulder: On Sunday and Monday we drove several hours, out-of-state, for a medical consultation, then home again. I did alright on Tuesday (other than being really tired from the trip), but by Wednesday afternoon I wrote, "Woke up flaired up in extra pain from mid-arm/back to left eye. Couldn't turn my head to the left most of the morning. More mobility now, but still really hurting. Rubbing muscle rub into my neck and shoulder like crazy. I think this is the price of too many hours in the car Sunday and Monday?" on a CPS form. When asked if my eye itself was hurting, I replied, "The temple to the outside of my eye. Not much the eye itself. But even if it were I would know that this were due to TN pain, diagnosed months prior to CPS for me." After further questions, I replied with, "My left shoulder sublexed from the strokes and it is popping in and out of socket a lot more since Sunday than it has in a while. When this acts up, the pain radiates out from it all directions, about a foot. Added to the already CPS pain, it gets pretty intolerable!"

One of the other group members said, "You are correct in identifying the long car rides as the culprit. The vibrations produced by autos set off our autonomic response system - which we don't even notice, but out CPS does... On car ride, never go more than 90 minutes without a break of at least 20 - 30 minutes. When you step out of the car, you will feel your whole body shaking, trembling, *vibrating*. Give yourself some rest until it calms down - then proceed. Piling on by driving straight through is absolutely the WRONG way to deal with it. They just have to learn to build this into trips. Sleep a lot the night before. And sit in the back where you can stretch out and move a bit!"

Thursday was my best day of the past 3. Friday was not QUITE as rough as Wednesday, but pretty bad again. The weirdest part of this whole pain flair-up was my...

Hearing: Whenever the pain of my neck, jaw and shoulder gets worse, my ear goes more profoundly deaf, I've noticed just this week. So this tell me two things. First, hearing is gradually getting some better since I now can tell a significant difference when it gets worse. Before, I think it was too "worse" all the time to notice any difference! Secondly, this would indicate to me (though I have yet to run the theory by any medical professional) that there is some sort of nerve issue at play, tying all these issues together. I'm not sure how eustation tube paralysis might or might not tie into my newest theory, but as the pain ebbs, the ear seems to pop quite a bit as a small amount (of still significantly impaired) hearing comes back online, so it seems all connected. (The right ear seems unchanged, still slightly muffled but measurably more functional than the left.)


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Mouth/Speech: There are still small areas of my the front end and left side of my tongue and lips that are totally numb, others that feel rather "burned" (for lack of a better descriptive), as does quite a large portion of my left cheek. I am more bother by this at some times than others. I still think I only have taste buds functional on the right side of my mouth and I still can leak food or drink (or saliva) out the left side of my mouth.  More than once, my mom or husband has had to either reach over and wipe something I can't feel off my face, or signal to me that I need to wipe my nose. My teeth still do not align well enough, my jaw isn't strong enough, and the feeling isn't informative enough that I can chew things on the right side. My speech therapist is investing getting me into an intensive vocal program to take advantage of this window of continued strides in the area of vocal control, but we are trying to arrange a special video scope of my vocal chords (to check on paralysis levels of my vocal chords) to find out if they might even might be considered as a candidate for this school.

Arm: Since I fairly recently addressed this topic in detail, I will just summarize by saying large motor function is clumsy, but seems to be stronger than a few months ago.  Small motor function continues to be pretty much non-functional, though I do manage to force my way through a version of the Sign Language alphabet, as therapy, on a daily basis. I have also been intentionally working on stretching the tendons of my left hand on a daily basis. My pinkie tolerates this well, with each finger towards my thumb being progressively tighter and more painful. I have been excited that I have been able to release my grasp of objects, upon desire, twice, this past week! (Usually, I have a hard time holding on to anything, but if I manage to grasp it, I have to take it away with my other hand or someone else has to pull it away from me. Being able to release at will is a BIG DEAL!)

I tried folding some laundry again this afternoon. (Thank you. Mom, for continuing to care for this need for us!) I was reminded of why I get too discouraged by this task to usually even try anymore. Today's attempts were dismal disasters. :(

Bodily Functions: Not something I'm jumping up and down (not that I could anyway) with excitement to share with the world at large, so I won't go into detail, but so others know you aren't alone, I'll admit that I've still had two bathroom "accidents" even this week (one of each kind), and while I may go weeks without any, it is still not a fully resolved issue even yet. I have finally been able to drop all my stool softeners, as of just this week, though, thanks to a high dose of another medication I am taking again for some hormonal issues. Loose stools are a side effect and while I have taken the medication before, it has never been with intestinal paralysis before so they hit me pretty hard this time around! Another issue that remains short of full resolution is involuntary vomiting (usually just a burp that goes rouge, but still) or chocking, often just on my own saliva. The deep, painful acne has been having a party this week and both my (left side) chin and upper lip are quite the painful mess!


Legs/Feet/Walking: My right foot is much improved. I think I am going to have to buy better insoles for my combat boots as the lack of support seemed to contribute to my problems there. (After nearly two weeks of not wearing inclosed shoes so the foot could heal, a few hours back in them and a different part of my foot was sore for two days!) My left foot stills seems to get purple a lot, and my limp remains quite pronounced. I keep reminding myself that I "shouldn't" be alive and absolutely not walking, so a cane really isn't half bad. 




Memory/Thought Process: My mother-in-law called me today. She asked me to remember two grocery items. Five minutes later I could only remember one and had to ask her to repeat the other. When I got off the phone and immediately called my husband, I remembered both items, but I forgot to tell him another important piece of information about this coming weekend. I talked to him three more times (always intending to tell him) before I remembered to pass along the information. I just this morning though to tell him two very important happenings in my parents' lives, that I have known for weeks, including my dad's surgery date (or that he is scheduled for surgery at all!) for next month.

I have several graduations to keep track of over the next couple of week's (including our son's eighth grade graduation) and I keep getting so messed up on dates. I keep insisting our son graduates next Thursday, but it is actually Wednesday. I can't even begin to tell you about the others! I hope we don't miss any because I'm so very confused!

I had one other important thing to share here. Is it surprising that I can't, for the life of me, remember what that was! :P

Edit: I remembered after I posted. I was just going to say how I will be so glad to finish this school year and am praying our daughter gets an opening by August, in the school where she is on the wait list for the fall, from the standpoint that I don't seem to remember almost any basic language rules and find myself totally frustrated (to the point of tears) by fourth grade grammar!

Dizziness/Balance: I am always dizzy to a certain extent and get more so with little provocation. The more tired I am, the more my world spins, especially noticeable first thing upon opening my eyes in the morning, late at night, or if I have pushed myself too hard and need to sit or nap and rest during the day. My center of gravity remains small, but even though I trip and drag and catch my left foot frequently on the floor or a chair I am trying to pass, or whatever, my standard comment remains, "Not bad for someone that is supposed to be dead." Not really a balance issue, but I don't know where else to put it; my tummy still continues to "clench" (flinch? spasm?) violently (like someone punched me in the gut) every night as I am falling asleep.
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All this complaining (sorry, my excuse is detailed documentation) and I still don't hesitate to say it it all so much more tolerable, life is so much more liveable, than it was last year, than it was even a few months ago! Take heart, fellow strokies, I didn't believe it when I heard it, but it really does get better and better and joy can return to your world once again! 


(By the way, if you had one thing you really wish someone had told you or you had known sooner in stroke recovery, what would it be? I am putting together resources on our resource page about the medical conditions I wish had been explained sooner, and that got me thinking of all the rich advice stroke survivors or caregivers could share with one another!)



 Quote of the day: The same boiling water that hardens the egg will soften the carrot... - Dr. James Dobson
 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. - Psalm 94:19

Friday, May 17, 2013

Down She Goes...


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I was back in my bedroom alone this morning. The kids were at the other end of the house and my door was closed because I went back to get dressed, so there was no way for our kids to hear me.

I got off balance trying to reach for an article of clothing just outside my (very small) center of gravity. It was like slow motion. I could feel and process what was happening, but my best efforts could do nothing to stop the process.

I reached out and grabbed for anything I could grasp. In this case the closest things were my skirts which slowed my fall a little, but I managed to yank right off of the skirt hanger. I literally heard myself say, in resignation, "Down she goes!" when there was nothing I could do to stop the drama from unfolding.

I landed, kerp-lunk, down on my shoe rack. Everything froze until the shoe box under me started to crumple and I fell several more inches, bit my bit, to the floor as the box continued to collapse under my weight, reminiscent of when I landed on a plastic "milk crate" style file box in the office and broke it in jagged, piercing stages, a few weeks ago.

I wasn't really hurt this time. A few stubbed fingers and toes and a couple bruises and scratches, but nothing significant. The interesting thing came when I tried to get back up off the floor. I found myself rather stranded, with no solid hand holds anywhere in reach and my legs too crumpled under me to be able to untangle them in the cramped confines of the closet.

After struggling for well over 5 minutes, I was afraid I would have to push my emergency call button, not for any kind of medical emergency, but simply because I was so stuck and unable to resolve issues on my own. I figured, if nothing else, the alarm would notify my kids to come running (though the only way they could have helped was by bringing my walker so I could have used it to pull up on), and canceled the medical call if I was no longer stuck by the time the operator spoke to me through the call panel.

The thing that kept me from doing so was the knowledge that my parents were coming to take me to the gym in half an hour. I figured, worst case, my mom would come into the house, come to check on me back in the bedroom, and find me still sitting in the closet in my nightshirt. We would likely miss our workout, but at least she would help me off the floor.

After about 10 minutes of struggle, I was able to squeeze my fingers of my right hand behind a metal panel screwed to the closet wall and hook my left hand into the door jar hardware. This gave me enough leverage to get up on my stronger knee. I then placed the palms of both hands on oposing wall, and push myself upright once again.



With only about 15 minutes left (it would have taken me longer than that to get my clothes on when I started dressing myself), I was dressed and ready to head out the door when my parents got here! :)
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. - Psalm 94:18

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Inevitability

I saw my neurologist recently. I asked him about the fairly intense variations of pain that I feel on my entire left side (and occasionally in waves on my lesser-stroke-impacted right as well) now, and have dealt with in varying intensity (it has built over time), since the first strokes. His answer was not any surprise at all, simply, "It was pretty inevitable."

(He offered me various nerve and pain medications, but since I have been allergic or in some other way pretty reactive to everything I've tried, I just keep some medication that I have fairly well tolerated, on hand for my very worst pain. If I absolutely HAVE to take it I also take Benadryl, just go to bed, keep the EpiPen handy, and know I will at least hive out if it is my best case reaction, so basically I just need to "tough out" the pain otherwise. I keep reminding myself that before pharmaceuticals, in people that didn't know about herbs, also a real potential danger zone for me, people didn't even have this option of emergency medication.) 

He went on to say that with the extent and specific locations of my strokes, "The pain is an inevitable result, just like it is pretty inevitable that your left arm will eventually lock in against your chest and become totally unusable."

Oh, really? I was startled by this prediction and kind of don't know what to do with this news.

At first I didn't think much about his pronouncement, I guess rather in a state of denial. Then came the weight of the inevitability, as my husband put it, "We need to know these things so you can prepare for the future." The doctor didn't say so, but for some reason the 3-4 year marks are my mental picture of when this might happen by.

Then came anger and a sense of "why bother," asking why I had worked SO HARD this past year and a half to restore large motor function of this arm (we have also worked on fine motor skills, but they have mostly refused all efforts at rehabilitation, so please don't hear anything I saw here as "If you only try harder, you are garenteed recovery!" since that is totally not what I'm saying, just processing my own thought right now), if I am only going to loose it all in the end anyway?  If I am to live with only one functional arm, isn't my time better spent in learning to perfect one-handed function, rather than trying to coax function from a reluctant arm that is destined for total loss of functionality anyway?
Ever wonder how to open a banana with just one hand? Pinch the "wrong end" and it opens right up! :) 
- Picture from Pintrest, tip from my husband!
I talked to my speech therapist about this (the first professional with stroke experience I saw after this appointment) and she was rather SHOCKED that he had actually given me this news, especially in light of my miraculous progress thus far. She said that if I weren't continuing to push myself so hard, or had refused therapy at all, she could totally see how I likely would have not have ever regained the limited use I now do have of my arm, thus locking it into non-functionality, but she has never heard of a "bell curve" in stroke recovery where a person fights back, regains something, then looses it again anyway.

Maybe my doctor was having a bad day or I caught him at an unguarded moment? Maybe he was just discouraged that one area he was hoping I might avoid was a full-blown reality now and he was voicing his concerns for the future? Anyway, I now know what he really believes and I guess my rebellious side is flaring now.

Will I eventually loose (again) the total function of my arm? Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will  tell. But the "why bother" is answered in that if I am going to loose function, giving up on therapy will only quicken and insure that outcome, while the continued push is my only possibility of proving my doctor wrong.

I met a lady at the bank last month. Her brother had also stroked in his 30s (I believe maybe 6 or 8 months before I did). She said he resisted all attempts at therapy. He is still in a wheel chair and not as far along in recovery. I pray for him, and as I told his sister, totally believe there is still physical reason to hope if he were ready to commit to therapy even now. But it was good inspiration for me to see what a year and a half of hard work (and God's grace!!!) has actually yielded.

Pintrest

My ST did remind me that it was equally inevitable that these strokes would kill me. When I didn't follow the doctors (plural!) expectations there, I was "NEVER" going to walk nor live independently again. In the words of Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
 
From Pintrest

(I like this quote too. It seems appropriate!
Westley: Why won't my arms move?
Fezzik: You've been mostly-dead all day.)



And on the topic of recording this journey:
Count Rugen: [calmly] As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Really that's all this is except that instead of sucking water, I'm sucking life. I've just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don't know what that would do to you. So, let's just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?
[Wesley cries and moans in pain]
Count Rugen: Interesting. 

(Quotes pulled from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/quotes)

Pintrest

Kendra, mineral makeup isn't keeping me clear from deep, painful, cystic acne anymore, so I might have to give coconut oil a try too (thanks for the suggestion!), but the minerals (without bismuth or cornstarch) still do help a lot. I have a magnifying mirror and when I get really close, especially on my chin, and somewhat on the rest of my face and neck too, it looks like someone has drawn a line right down the middle of my face. The less stoked side is realitivly clear and smooth, while the left side is all bumpy and rough with underdeveloped acne, interspersed with the deep, nasty stuff. I have very little "regular" acne now, on either side of my face, but the yucky stroke-related kind is almost exclusively relegated to the one side now. I have some scars and discolorated areas (cover-able with makeup for the most part), and still get some renegade junk on my face (mostly nose, not often cheeks nor forehead now, though these can still happen) or neck or shoulders, but the constant patch seems to be on my left chin and sometimes beside my mouth or on my upper lip now. So I want to offer you hope that (as we already had concluded) there is no doubt that skin is impacted by strokes too and it really can improve! {hug}
 “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning …” Psalm 130:5-6

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mother's Day Thoughts

I went to my doctor about my right foot yesterday. It seems to be a "soft tissue injury," presumably from carrying my weight so unevenly and abusing that poor little foot with the bulk of the responsibility of carrying my body. I called and canceled today's scheduled physical therapy, because I am to be icing, elevating and staying off my foot as much as possible. Since  I can't even get an enclosed shoe onto that foot (one pair of rather unsupportive, but wrapping-around-me, gladiator-style sandles are all I even semi-comfortably tolerate wearing this week, even though it has been cold and rainy all week), I think therapy would be rather counter-productive at the moment.

The good news is that my doctor anticipates that the foot should be better within a week, as long as I take care of it. If it isn't, she will send me to a foot specialist to have another look. It doesn't look bad, hardly visibly swollen and not bruised or discolored at all. It just feels pretty sore.

It was a long day yesterday. I fell into bed without even doing my speech therapy exercises before bed, something I hardly ever miss. I was gone from the house from 11:45-7:30 last night, riding the special needs bus, "Access," from one appointment to the next. I explained to my therapist that this is intimidating, not because I'm not well cared-for, but because I have rarely been totally on my own any time in over 18 months, so I just don't have much confidence or self-reliance. I guess every time I do this sort of thing, I regain a little a little independence again. My counselor says that being in stroke recovery is my occupation, my full-time job. I certainly never dreamed that recovery would still be so much work, a year and a half into this journey!!! (Thanks to my mom who has set aside her own normal life to make me her full-time life too!)

From Facebook

Riding the bus puts me in contact with all kinds of interesting new people. Yesterday I rode with one lady who was in an electric wheel chair and had little control over her head, whipping it from side to side, like I did for several weeks after my last three strokes. It hit me hard that that's the exact position I would be in right now, had not God allowed me such healing over the past year. I sat behind her and fought tears, for her, for myself, for the entire situation, for nearly an hour.

Something that she could do that had me in absolute awe (because I cannot), was hold a baby! She got onto the bus with a child strapped into an infant carrier she held on her lap (ingenious idea!). Her hands were crumpled, but she had one thumb she could securely hook through the infant carrier, leaving her other arm free to gently pat the child's legs in comfort. She was obviously an excellent mother and I was enthralled with her skill and obvious devotion to this child. He occasionally made some contented little sound, but was otherwise the quietest child I had ever observed. It wasn't until she got off at her stop that I could see the exquisite face of the, I would guess about 3 month, little boy that looked exactly like his Mama.

It wasn't until the bus driver re-boarded the bus after escorting her to her door that the other lady on the bus questioned him about the child. I was stunned to learned that he wasn't a real baby at all, rather a life-like doll! I really had no idea. Apparently she has several of these, of various expressions, and travels with one of them daily, treating them as real children. How my heart aches! Eventually, maybe I will learn some of the back story there. I hate how the bus situates each client rather separately so that there is little chance for conversation or interpersonal interaction.

The lady behind me was nearly in tears because she heard me answer a brief phone call from my mom and she is struggling over the upcoming weekend without her own mother still alive. I wished I could have talked with her more too! The entire day was a profound reminder of my abundance of blessing in my own mom, that I have been ever-so-blessed to be entrusted with my children (twice over, not only that they are here at all, but this will be our first Mother's Day they have been home since the strokes), and for the leaps and bounds of health improvement I have been given, far beyond all medical anticipation! Yesterday was summed up with heavy reminders that, "But for the grace of God, go I!"

From Facebook.
An Open Letter to Pastors, A Non-Mom Speaks About Mother's Day (In spite of the title, this letter is basically non-religious in nature, and very good for anyone to read. Thanks to my Mommy for the link.)
LORD, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. - Psalm 16:5-6

Monday, May 6, 2013

Divine Encouragement

It has been a week of some God-orchestrated, much-needed, verbal encouragements.

The first came when a friend messaged me on Facebook last week. We had gotten together the day before (after a comedy of errors that delayed our meeting by several hours) and I was stressed and frazzled and my house more than "lived in" looking, far from Martha Steward perfection (or even remotely close to it). Still we chatted and prayed a little and had a very blessed afternoon. On a spur-of-the-moment decision, we invited them to stay for dinner, something that might normally have stressed my poor husband (especially with the state of our home), but we all seemed relaxed and to thoroughly enjoy our evening. The next day, she blessed me by writing that she has "not felt so at home in someone else's house for years." Praise God! I am humbled and overjoyed. Thank you for the blessing of your words, K!
The second came when we went to SAM's club after church yesterday. In the check out line, a lady behind me leaned forward and asked, "So how did you end up in a wheel chair?" I was a little startled by the question, but found it rather refreshing as well, honest, direct, and child-like (kids are typically much more direct in expressing their thoughts). I was grateful for the chance to tell my story and so thankful for her interest and acceptance (rather than the hurtful indifference, rejection, rudeness, or even rare outright cruelty I have encountered at times) and continued pursuit of information.

We talked more after we had both finished checking out. She recognized my husband and he recognized her, but they never could figure out how they might have met before. I don't even remember her name, don't know that I will ever see her again, but her words had a life-changing impact on me. I am still in awe. It was clearly a divine appointment. It put me in mind of the "angels unaware" passage, though she never made any comment about the Lord. Still, her message, went right to my heart struggles of wondering how others perceive me and feeling so ugly and broken.

She leaned forward, after clear embarrassment and trying to reassure me that she wasn't trying to "hit on" me or doing anything "weird," she whisper (straight into my good ear, without being told that I couldn't hear out of the other ear), "I kept noticing this pretty lady around the store and kept wondering what put you in a wheelchair. I was so excited when we ended up behind you in line, because I finally got to ask." We went on talking and she again made a point of saying how beautiful she thinks I am. I don't feel beautiful. The lady looking at me from the mirror is damaged and so very, very flawed. Only God knew how much I needed those exact words at that very moment.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. - Hebrews 13:2
This morning, our daughter's tutor got here, into our crazy chaos, and some of the very first words out of her mouth were, "Every time I come into this house, I just feel the love! I was just telling my husband about how tangible it is here." Again, she had no idea how her words would impact, startle, floor me. I regularly pray that God would send a spirit of order, peace, joy into our home. I only see the clutter, the chaos (schedules and possessions), hear the noise. What a drenching of blessing to my heart to hear that God's love is what shines out to others!!!

I still have so far to go. But these encouragements were such a boost along the journey. I had to get them recorded before I forgot!

This is an in(Courage) event my mom took me to a week ago. What a blessing! <3
I'm on your right, with the hat and cane.

I was rather sickened to read this measure of brain injury and realize that for several hours (when I was comatose, unresponsive, and posturing) on the first day I would have undoubtedly scored "severe" injury, probably even most of, at least, the first week (where I still hardly have any memory of events, though I was mostly conscious or at least rouse-able). For probably the entire length of my (nearly two months) of hospitalization, my injury still would have fallen on the higher end of the "moderate" injury rating, I would think. I still would likely still fall into mild to moderate ratings today (though I would need someone else's outside evaluation to know exactly where).

So I keep asking God to show me my purpose, why He still has me here. I know there are lots of reasons, lots of people. If I know of at least one who finds assurance of Heaven, who does not see hell, because of what God's doing through me, the journey will become so much more "worth it" in my eyes. I know I'm here for my husband, for each of my children, for my parents, for many friends. I believe I still have some books to write. Possibly some speaking yet to do. But beyond all that, deep down, I still desperately needed an answer to why I can't go to Heaven yet. This week, God clearly confirmed that my mission is our 7-year-old son. I am not certain about the state of his heart. As long as there are doubts, I have a mission to be praying for this boy, speaking truth into his little heart. What God does is His department, but for now I finally have a reason, a purpose.
From Facebook

Here's the latest on my endocrinological health, if you wish to read. (I'm trying to keep issues to their own blogs, but there is overlap since it is all part of my life and happening at the same time.) This past week I re-started a medication have taken (and had very good success with) in the past. Hopefully it will work well now, for a different set of concerns, as well.

I am going to be seeing my doctor about a very painful issue with my right foot tomorrow (I'm guessing it is developing because I carry too much weight on that side of my body). I'll keep you updated. Prayer appreciated.

I know I had one other pretty major event or thought to share with you. I absolutely cannot remember what it was (though I did remember for a bit when I wasn't at the computer, earlier today). Oh well, I'll tell you once I remember...
The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. - Zephaniah 3:17

P.S. Congratulations to Bethany Hamilton (shark bite survivor) on her upcoming wedding!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stroke Warning Signs

May is stroke awareness month.       Picture from Pintrest.

If you even think someone might be having a stroke, remember the acronym FAST (face, arms, speech, time) and quickly call 911. If they remain conscious (many do, I didn't with most of mine) they will likely try to object. Denial is typical of stroke! But remember, time lost (every second counts) in obtaining treatment amounts to further brain cell loss and severity of stroke. So please, act FAST in getting help! It would be far better if you call for help and all turns out to be OK after all, then if you don't seek to get help when your friend actually needs it. Even possible stroke symptoms are always considered a medical emergency.

Picture from Pintrest and http://lancastria.net/blog/stroke-information.html
Another potential stroke gage I  have recently read, is to ask your friend to stick out their tongue. If it pulls to one side or the other and they can't hold it out straight, this is another area of stroke concern.

From Pintrest
From an emailed I recently received:
"Act FAST for stroke this May. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the U.S., but less than one third of people in the U.S. can recognize more than one stroke warning sign. Do you know the signs?
“Experience” the signs of a stroke this May by signing up for the National Stroke Awareness Month texting campaign. Randomly over the span of one day, you will receive pieces of a life-saving puzzle that will help you learn some of the warning signs of a stroke.
Sign up now"Be our partner—help us reach our goal of raising awareness about stroke among as many people as possible. When you sign up, invite your friends to participate in the texting campaign too!"
Know someone who is already coping with the after-effects of a stroke? Don't forget to check these stroke resources that might prove helpful to you both.