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.

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


  1. Snapping...I should work on that, as all I can make is a swishing sound on my stroked side.