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!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Forget-A-Versary (29 months)

After 4 this afternoon, I glanced at my calendar and thought, "Hmm, the 25. That date sounds important. What am I forgetting today?"

It was only then that I realized today marks another month, 2 years and 5 months out now, since my strokes began!

It isn't an intentional obsession that I'm still caught up in marking these landmark dates. It just happens. Typically I dread the 25th coming around again, anticipate with anxiety for days in advance.

This month, I forgot!

I didn't think of it as the day approached, as the calendar marked off 20ish dates. I didn't wake up with the realization overwhelming me this morning. I didn't even notice as I saw the number 25 flashing in the corner of my computer monitor throughout the day. I didn't even automatically "go there" when I saw the date on my paper calendar this afternoon.

I had to think about the significance of this date, only to have a gradual realization dawn upon me.

This is a first. This is huge!

Physically, I finished one nasty cold that went into an ear and sinus infection, sever dizziness from the antibiotics was resolving, I had a few clear breathing days, and no our whole family has significant allergies that have been bad enough to send a child home from school (and keep her out today as well) with her horrid sinus headache. I'm pretty headachy again myself (along with the congestion)  but can tell this one particularly involves sinuses, so hopefully this allergy season will be short-lived!

My jaw is really sore and cranky, but that's the same side where my facial sinus is so tender, so it is likely all related. I'm just having to adjust bite size a lot lately since my jaw won't open as widely as I had been able to work it.

My right should is still pretty tight and sore. I just consciously am working to drop my left arm since I have been carrying it pulled up to my chest a lot lately.

I think my speech is pretty good, but to those who aren't around me, like a store cashier, I still have to frequently repeat myself to be understood.

My CT and MR scans from this past month came back with no new damage. This is very good news! Emotionally, there was new (to me) information about the initial strokes that I had a hard time processing, but I think my counselor got me over that hurdle pretty well.

My vision is pretty good, only rarely doubles directly in front of me now, pretty much only if I'm really tired. Peripherally, I still have quite doubled vision, especially to the left. I still can't walk and look to a side or behind me without coming to a full stand-still first.

Driving or doing mathematics (my 2nd grader's homework!) or memory for scientific or historical facts (like even what I had planned to say when I started a sentence and can't remember a few words into that sentence) are still more cognitively challenging than I can consistently master. Meal planning still really overwhelms me, but if Rick and I (or my mom and I) can have the week charted out before he leave to work on Monday morning, my whole week goes much more calmly! I getting pretty good about sorting and starting laundry by each Friday night or Saturday morning and having it done by the time the kids need to get school uniforms ready for the new week, Sunday night. My mom and I usually finish up the laundry I can't fold or put away by myself on Monday or Tuesday.

My left ear seemed more capable of hearing a few sounds before my cold hit a few weeks ago. We have not notice a return to what was just starting to feel like slightly improved function, since all this congestion hit. If anything, I'm currently MORE dependent on reading lips than ever before, but we are hoping that once my sinuses ever clear, that perhaps we will discover that perhaps my hearing has indeed improved as well. I know I am congested right now, when I frequently hear my own heartbeat or fluid moving around in my sinuses!

I still really dislike talking on a telephone. Weather this is purely a sound-related issue or is a cognitive impairment, or a little or each, is still unclear. I did try Skype and liked it better than straight telephone (because I can read lips!) but still prefer typing or face-to-face conversation.

Speaking of typing, I still use only my right hand. I might have regained enough use of my left now that if I really concentrated and pushed myself, I could likely accomplish some clumsy level of two-handed "typing" for brief stretches of time now, but I would make a myriad of mistakes and it would be an agonizingly slow and tedious process. At this point, I'm getting quite competent in my single-handed proficiency on a keyboard, and am content with this as a long-term reality. I can (pretty much) clap my hands, can make a small sound snapping my left middle finger and thumb and can grasp and carry light objects in my left hand now (though any thing, like a piece of paper, that I get ahold of with that hand, I will likely crush while carrying it then have a hard time letting go when I try to release).

My singing voice, while still far from what it once was, is slowly coming back a bit again. While not strong or reliable, I thankful that it is no longer locked into only monotone and actually has a bit of range now!

Mouth numbness isn't typically too bothersome now (it occasionally flairs up more with various flavors, textures, or especially temperatures) and has improved a LOT since the hospital or even the end of that first year, but is still not fully resolved. Of all the places to still fight some lack of feeling, I guess the mouth is much better than a lot of places that could still be quite numb!  My lips (left side) seems to have regained some feeling all the way across now, though it is still a limited feeling. The tip (front half, left hand side) of my tongue is still the only area where I'm fully numb. I have hyper-feeling and/or irregular sensation on much of the left side of my body and still have an unusual sensitivity to regular stimuli that registers as pain for me there.

For well over a year now, when I sit in my recliner with my feet up, I work on twisting my feet in circles, kind of like twiddling my thumbs, but this is a whole foot movement. I've typically circled then inwardly so the left is twirling clockwise while the right is moving in counter-clockwise little circles. This was a real challenge for many months, and still causes the muscles in my left leg to grow pretty painful, pretty quickly, but I do this fairly continually, especially if there is anyone else in the room with me. I guess it is just an organization coping mechanism for my brain now.

A few weeks ago I started intentionally trying to reverse these ankle circles outwardly, the right clockwise and the left counter clockwise. For the first few days, the left leg simply WOULD NOT make these circles. Then I could get about the inside half of the left leg circles. Now I can get pretty much all the way around! My left-sided circles are still rather elongated and "flat" (ovals rather than circles), but I get all the way around now! This is just in a matter of weeks that I've learned to conquer this movement! :D

My circulation has been a challenge again the last few weeks, blood often pooling down in that left foot with dark, dusky, purple toes when I look at my foot on the shower floor. I keep that leg propped up, either across my right knee, or preferably propped up on a chair, pretty much any time I am sitting down. This also makes a difference in swelling and pain levels, as well as circulation. Last week I had so many big, painful bruises on the left side of my left foot and on up my leg too, that there was no longer even a comfortable part of my leg to use to be able to prop it up without even more pain. Thankfully, many of those bruises have dissipated this week!

Emotionally, the liability is still there. I still cannot cry most of the time, around most, in most circumstances. I still struggle to talk with my husband, about much of anything, without crying, but have had a few mild successes there lately (just tearing up, but not full-blown sobbing, or being able to regain control again fairly quickly, once the crying has started) and am thankful to be seeing a seeming measure of improvement in this area!!!

My doctors and I agree that there is still much internal, invisible paralysis that cannot be addressed through therapy. For these issues, we just continue to individually address as each issue arises, adapting as best as we can when issues can't actually be treated. A month out from my 2 1/2 year mark, I still get frustrated with a lot, but I keep reminding myself that I "shouldn't" have even survived at all and that just being able to breathe on my own, eat, swallow, sit up in a chair, these were all things that had to be re-mastered and that I surprised doctors by even being able to accomplish! The rest is all a totally unexpected, unprecedented BONUS!!!

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” - Psalm 91:2

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Week

I've posted (and read - if the quote isn't mine, I'll say so) several little Facebook notes in my various groups over the past few days. I guess the best way to keep you updated is to share a few excerpts of these:
Weird, quirky little symptom I've never heard anyone mention before, so just wondering about. Every single night since the strokes, my tummy will repeatedly "clench" (would be like the tightening for doing a tummy crunch, but it pushes my abs OUTward, not in) as I am trying to drift into that transition between wakefulness and sleep. At first it was really bothersome (because it kept jolting me back awake, often several times per night, before I finally could really get to sleep) and now it is just sort of "there" and kind of calming because I know my body is actually trying to finally fall asleep for the night. It is profound enough, it actually looks/feels much like a baby kicking (I had a hysterectomy pre-stroke, so I know for sure I am not pregnant, plus this has gone on for well over 2 years now) and startles my husband when he feels it. Anyone else? Any explanation?
I did receive a few replies like, "Same thing with me! Never heard anyone mention it before. Started right after the brain stem stroke." and the only commonality is that this does seem to be only amongst brain stem stroke survivors (at least these are the only ones who commented that this medical little oddity, fully ignored by our doctors). As one woman speculated, "Brain stem controls breathing, so it makes sense." Our conclusion as to why doctors never address this issue is, "probably not a concern for the doctors as they are so focused on saving our lives or focusing on critical needs. This is annoying, but rather benign." and "I've just come to accept it. But I still wonder what it is."

A funny thing is I have NO CLUE about sports, so I filled it out a fake basketball bracket for March Madness, purely on what tickled my fancy at the moment. For example, one choice was CCAR, I don't have any idea where that's located or what the school name is, but I picked it because it sounded like "car" so I liked it. My husband and son were totally laughing at my ridiculous spread that had no logic involved. They say it is so crazy, I just might win! LOL

Congratulations to Michael Fernandez of Migraine Discussions for your Rookie Of the Year win with WEGO Health in their Third Annual WEGO Health Activist Awards Ceremony!
Thank you to everyone who has voted for and supported me! Hopefully we have all done a little something to help promote stroke education. See more at www.StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stroke-of-Grace-by-Jennifer-Saake/339888582731687 .
I didn't win, but truly am thankful and overwhelmed to have been selected as a finalist health advocate. When I told Rick last night, he blessed my heart in even a bigger way than the selection would have, by telling me that he and the kids are proud of me. My heart hurts over so very many and deep losses since the strokes - what a blessing to hear that my family is proud of me even when I'm not a "winner"!
According to a recent edition of the Stroke Association of Victoria’s member magazine, "Cognitive Fatigue is common after any kind of brain injury. The brain is working harder to keep up all that it does, even the things that before the injury, came naturally. The brain needs a rest. Without rest, those who experience Cognitive Fatigue, can experience headaches, or become irritable, confused, or sometimes have problems with behaviour.
A variety of things enable Cognitive Fatigue to be managed.
A daily routine should be balanced with quiet times, or rest times. Plan ahead to allow for rest times, especially when preparing for demanding activities. Allow time for quieter routines before and after these activities.
It is suggested that if there is a number of activities to do in one day, they should be worked out and prioritised.
Help family and friends to understand that cognitive fatigue is due to brain damage, not because of laziness, or a lack of motivation.
Aids can be used to reduce strain and effort where possible.
Factors, like the effects of medication, the weather, illness, people, or places can contribute to fatigue. It is suggested that strategies should be worked out on how to manage these.
Those recovering from brain trauma, can experience ‘sensory overload.’ This too, can impact on fatigue. For example; a busy shopping centre, with lights, noise, and lots of people walking around, can be overwhelming.
Maintain health and fitness, but make sure that exercise itself does not cause fatigue.
It is advised that ways to manage fatigue should be developed.
Plan to prevent, Cognitive Fatigue, rather than manage it after it occurs..."
I shared in a couple different groups yesterday:
I've had a nasty headache this past week, that just won't quit. Scary, yet I know worry and fear won't change anything if something is about to happen, just steal away joy from these days it hasn't happened yet too! I keep thinking about all of you who have gone though this more than once (I had 6 strokes, but all clustered within a month of each other, so all the recovery battle has really just been once) and I don't know how you who have done this twice or more! Just saying, you all are amazing!!!
 Following a variety of member questions, I replied back with:
I just had a routine CT and MR study (I think this means both MRI and MRA) last month. All clear. It was during the MR IV injection I first started with the bad headache (I presumed a side effect of the dye) and it has been off and on ever since. I had classic migraines, pre-stroke, then nothing other than ocular migraines for about a year post-stroke (trippy, new experience!) and then really no headaches or anything most of the past year or so.  
I do take Zertec, daily, and I just had this re-encouraged by primary care a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping the headache was sinus, but even after a nasty cold with ear and sinus infection is all cleared by a round of antibiotics, the head is still grumpy. I really think it is likely my sublexed shoulder and how I still carry my left arm, putting such strain on my neck for over two years. Since my strokes were injury-related, I don't logically think I'm at any more risk now than I would have been, had I never stroked, just sometimes my heart gets ahold of my fears and runs away with them!
TN [trigeminal nerve] is pretty angry today, but it seems that the headache well pre-dated the TN flair for me, this time around. 
Then several hours later, after lots of prayer from several friend, a couple laps of painful hall crawling that stretched out my neck and shoulder, and several round (days actually) of gentle neck stretches, "It is down a LOT for the past few hours. Thank you for praying." It is not "gone" today but certainly feels just muscular again now, so much more tolerable.

Informative little links to share this week (written from the chiropractic industry perspective) is that not every VAD (vertebral artery dissection) happens from chiropractic injury (car accidents, I've even heard of beauty parlor sink strokes, though I have yet to meet anyone who personally claimed that cause, conducting an ogrestra, etc.), but that nearly 1/3 of all VADs are linked to chiropractic adjustment. http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/stroke.shtml

Here's a great little video I found on YouTube, demonstrating a one-handed shoe tying technique:

Using my big, heavy-duty, seven wheeled "Parkinson's walker" that I had to use any time I was upright, when I first came home from the hospital, I made it all the way down the LONG block to my mail box and then on all the way around the block (gentle up-hill climb) on Thursday. I had my emergency beeper around my neck and cell phone in the walker basket. On Friday I again made it to the mail box and back home (didn't try the whole block yesterday). On Thursday there were three major trips or imbalance moments when I would have, otherwise, gone down, but that big, sturdy, 70-pound piece of equipment allowed me to stay upright and accomplish the task. :) I was able to get out of the house some, last spring, but still pretty much always with supervision, usually in my wheelchair. It felt so good just to take a walk around my own block, all by myself on Thursday! It looks like there may be some issues with our gym membership, so while we are trying to sort that all out, my mom and I are going to work on taking little neighborhood walks fairly regularly now.

"‘O Sovereign Lord, you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me, your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as you do?" Deut. 3:24

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Much like the seasons of my heart, there are signs of progress healing, new life, yet sometimes life takes some back steps even in general, overall forward progress (like today being the first day of Spring and all the fruit trees near our home are in glorious bloom, but snow is forecast for next week). I'm still working toward getting back to my own baseline after these nasty infections, but emotionally I'm in a pretty good place right now. This is just a little reminder for myself that when I have bad days, they are just anomalies and not a sign of this season of ongoing growth.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Biding Time

My latest kick has been doing some "what if dreaming" and some literal planning coordinating outfits for our family (pictures? special event?). I'm putting really nice outfits together for the 5 of us, for under $100. It has been a fun challenge! (Have I mentioned I love to shop, especially bargain shop?) My color pallet has been mostly blues with some greens. And lots of butterflies, of course!

I'm working on more writing but my antibiotics (at least that's what I hope / think) continue to make me more and more dizzy each day, so I'm not doing much else at the moment. (Jumping and flute attempts, with all the air support needed, hallway crawling, pool exercise, pretty much any things that require balance, are not really even a possibility at the moment!) Tonight is my final dose of these meds, so I figure it will take a little time for symptoms to clear, but hopefully by Friday or the weekend the drug effects will diminish!

I just did a fun little IQ&A over at my InfertilityMom blog. :)

Last night was a rough night for the family, homework wise. Rick was at a meeting and I'm at about 2nd grade level, academically, so there at least half a dozen different times when I had a child in tears. We ended sending everyone to bed around 10 PM, two still without having finished today's assignments. For the most part, this charter school thing has really been the best option for our family this year, but days like these I feel my losses and deficits so very profoundly!

Quote: “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” Charles Spurgeon
Today's verse:

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I posted to Facebook yesterday, "I think the cure makes me feel worse than the original illnesses did! I am so very exhausted (like a bad ME/CFS flair week) and my balance is unusually horrid, but thankfully no disastrous falls so far! These symptoms didn't start until after I was taking my antibiotic, but at least the congestion is doing MUCH better and my cough nearly totally gone now!"

This thing is really taking the starch out of me, but my sniffles are getting much better!

Oh, Kendra, I finally found what we've been looking for:
So easy! And in my mind I would think, logically, the more skin I have, the more I should be able to claim this title! :)
Even with the extra dizziness, imbalance and fatigue, I'm excited to share 2 new post-stroke "firsts" with you from Tuesday (when the strange, extra symptoms were just first starting to come on, but not full blown yet).

The first thing I did was to strip all the sheets off my bed, by myself, without falling over in the process (big deal, because even just pulling up the sheets and blankets to try to make my bed in the mornings is such a herculean task that it usually doesn't happen!) and rolled from the head of the bed to the foot to "burp" (push excess air out of) our waterbed! This is the first time I have had the strength, mobility and stability to make that roll. Not bad for someone who could not even turn off her back or roll over in bed at all for many months. (Maybe that counts as too different achievements, but since the sheets were already half pulled out when I started, I didn't really count that as a major first. The bed "burping" was indeed though!) If what I call "unusually dizzy" now is when I actually first accomplished this goal, that gives a little perspective as to how unbearably dizzy I used to be, when even the slightest turn of my head would make me want to throw up. Praise God for the healing He continues to bring in this area!

The second, still pretty unbelievable to me, is that, while the whole bed project took well over 2 hours, and I was sweating up a storm by the end, I managed to totally change our sheets by myself as well. Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal, but if you have never tried to change waterbed sheets, it involves a LOT of physical strength and dexterity, was a challenge even before the strokes. The most physically demanding part involves bending over each corner of the bed and reaching down to lug up that awkward, heavy corner of this giant sack of water, with one hand, while quickly maneuvering a fabric pocket at that corner of she sheet, down under the edge of the mattress to hold it in place. (Why do we still have a waterbed, if they can be so much trouble then? The comfort for sleeping, especially for me since the strokes is your answer!) I have attempted this corner thing over and over, but my left (primary stroked) arm simply did not have the strength nor dexterity to accomplish either part of this task.

On Tuesday I had the time and determination and had regained enough strength and function that I was not giving up until I finally conquered changing my own sheets. I must have reworked those silly corners of the bed dozens of times before they stayed put. I tried sitting on the floor, reaching up and over the edge of the bed, kneeling on the floor, so I was pretty stable but taller, sitting on the edge of the bed, you name it. My side of the bed, where I lifter the corners with my right hand and worked the sheet with my left was much more successful than Rick's side of the bed because that whole lifting/strength thing is still not quite there (my side is still staying put, both Rick's corner popped out as soon as he got in bed that night so he had to get up and redo them before he could sleep). But well after 2 1/2 hours, I could stand back, look at the bed with fresh pillow case changes and all, say "I did that!" then take a shower and crawl into that bed. The water bed hasn't felt SO good on my sore, strained, exhausted back muscles as it did that night! But I did have to get up and take pain meds yesterday morning!

Besides my bed, the rest of my poor house looks like it has been sick this week too. You know that law of physics about everything naturally going from order to disorder? Let me tell you, that law is very predictable and results are often lightening-fast! I'm so very thankful that Kathy will be here to help reverse my "house flu" today!

I would so love to invite you over to one of my other blogs, Harvesting Hope from Heartache, today, to join my friend Diane and I as we laugh her new blog series on the names of God today. Today's is very personal to me, so I'm thrilled to get to share it as she kicks off her newest project this morning!
The Lord is My Banner.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I'm home from the doctor with a tummy bug, sinus infection, ear infection (only right, tube in left kept that eardrum looking "beautiful"), and now on antibiotics. Fluids and plenty of rest and more fluids and more rest, on the agenda.

All our kids were back to school today. They are beyond contagion, but still not back to full energy. 
I can't stress the truth of this statement enough! So very true. Even two fairly identical, medically speaking, injuries exhibit it vastly different ways, due to each person's unique brain wiring!
There are many who say, 'Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!' You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:6 - 8, ESV)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sick Yet Again

Yep. I'm sick. :( Wasn't it kind of my kids to share? No church tomorrow. Nor a birthday party we had really been looking forward to. Unless I improve a lot between now and then, I'll be calling my doctor on Monday morning. Such is life...
Don't forget to set your clocks forward an hour tonight!
A book I have really been anticipating, coming in April, is called Love Idol. I just read a really great post (that I will go back and edit into my Lent post) about this book and a Me Fast that I just have to pass along!


Quote: Christianity isn't just about what happens when you die & go to heaven. Jesus changes how you live along the way for God's glory & your good. - Mark Driscoll

So this is a cross-over in audience, would normally be an article I might share only on one of my infertility - or bereavement - related blogs, but That's Just How Grief Is... does such a beautiful, poignant job of capturing the crazy, mixed up questions, thoughts and emotions of the grief journey, that (maybe because it draws so intimately on other prior experiences of my life), I found it very applicable to processing the emotions of stroke that so dramatically turns my prior expectations of life totally on ear! Shelly, remember our recent conversation about how remember how thing "used to be" makes accepting these new limitations so hard, and yet how we are thankful not to have forgotten many treasured people and things? Your comment really stuck with me, "I guess we can't keep one without the other!" That's what this article says to me.
A new (to me) stroke page that Kendra sent me, that I'll be exploring more, in hopes of adding to our resource page, is called Stronger After Stroke, by a guy named Pete. (Well, I though this page was new to me, but I see it already listed in our resources, so I must have already seen it before!) 

Speaking of Kendra, we have both long-lived in that "third row" of this scary rollercoaster. I think we are both closer to the second now. Can't wait to both get to the first row together and see what all-encompassing joy God has in store for us together! (Shelly, Denise, Ruth and so many more, this could be us too! :) )
I'm posting two reminders about "spring forward," because I keep forgetting and would have already forgotten that when I started reading this post, I planned to go reset my clock once I finished reading. So go! Right now! Before anything distracts or sidetracks you! :D
My times are in your hands... - Psalm 31:15a

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lent - A few Days "Late"

These two post are not written to "go together." I don't even know if the authors know each other or not. But I liked the ideas presented in each and felt they kind of went hand in hand. Reverse Lent and 18 Creative Prayer Reminders.


If you are looking for a more traditional, meditative way to observe these 40 days before Easter, preparing your heart to receive and rejoice in the glory of Resurrection next month, here is a friend's sister's Lenten journey I am reading along to share in her thoughts this year.

"Compared to the way I normally eat, that’s a very short list. For the over 3 billion people who live on less than $2.50 a day, it’s an extravagant list; remember, the $2.50 isn’t their food budget, it’s their entire income! This is just the beginning of the first full day of the journey and already I feel shaken to my core…" http://GodJustHearsAMelody.wordpress.com/

A book I have really been anticipating, coming in April, is called Love Idol. I just read a really great post about this book and a Me Fast that I just have to pass along!


So I visited one of my Facebook groups this morning and saw this beautiful KLOVE picture:
Do you know the REALLY cool thing about short term memory loss? When I saw this I thought, "Wow! What a cool image. That really speaks to me!" Then I looked up and saw that I shared it with my group just a few days ago! I don't remember even seeing it before, much less posting it. I get to be freshly blessed by it all over again today!

Quote: The brook would lose its song if God removed the rocks. - Barbara Johnson, Daily Splashes of Joy Calendar, March 7
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. - Proverbs 19:21