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. 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.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

31 Months.

Tomorrow will be 2 years, 7 months. I'm posting a day early due to the Memorial Day weekend. Thank you to all who serve, served, those lost, and to all of your family members!


Today I got a trike! We just went and paid for it. It is in my parents' garage for the weekend and we plan for my son and hubby to get it to bring it home on Monday. It is custom built (think chopper, only with bicycle parts), motorized (to my surprise, no peddles) and a mostly burgundy with a little red and silver on the frame. It looks kind of old and a little beat up, but runs great! It goes pretty fast and will take me a while to learn to ride even just on low, but braking will be great therapy as the hand pull break is only on my weaker, left, most-stroked hand. Just sitting up straight (it isn't low like your Kendra, because I couldn't get myself up and down to get in and out, it is upright like a regular bike) on the seat is going to build muscles and be great stroke therapy! No pictures yet, but once I get it home I will post.
 


 
Trying to manage about 21 medical and therapy appointments (between my daughter and me, at LEAST 4 therapy appointments each week, 2 apiece, plus several other appointments) as well as a bunch of phone calls, a couple of functions, a few school-related events, and doing my part in helping prepare two family members for international travel, all within the few weeks while my parents (regular drivers) are out of town has been very taxing brain/mental therapy, but I think I am actually doing a pretty good job managing it all with lots of lists and files and my computer and tablet. I couldn't even have fathomed this last summer. Thank you all for the large team of fill in drivers who have so generously stepped in!!! I think I only have two appointments yet to cover in the next few weeks. You guys are AMAZING!


A couple of things I have been thinking about lately. The first is the handicapped bathroom stall, Kendra. Three times in the last few weeks I've walked into public restrooms to find several regular stalls wide open but all handicapped units taken. Now I am no longer often in a chair (for longer trips, yes, but I am mobile enough to walk a bit without one), but I am still quite dependent on grab bars next to a toilet even if I don't require so much room now, and that typically only comes in the big bathrooms. I understand that some illnesses are invisible and some people I would never guess to need handicapped equipped restrooms actually do, I understand what it is like to be a mom of young children and need to be able to still supervise them even in the restroom, I know that the large stalls are the only places that have diaper changing stations. I understand all these factors. But it is frustrating when a very healthy looking 12-year-old comes literally skipping out of the only stall I can use just because she wanted more space! And it is also really nasty when someone has been "hovering" over a potty, gets it all wet because they don't want to sit, then doesn't even bother to wipe up the mess. News flash: I HAVE to sit there. Hovering is not an option! If you don't wipe up after yourself, I have to. :( OK, rabbit trail over...

 

The other thing I've been thinking about is hand writing. Transcribing much of our daughter's homework for several weeks of a broken wrist, has actually proven to be the best hand therapy. I would actually say my writing even look good now, almost pre-stroke quality. This is HUGE, just since the start of the new year, really the last few weeks. When I wrote thank you notes in January, my 8-year-old's note were still neater than mine. When I started transcribing homework in April, my handwriting was only slightly more readable than our daughter's non-dominant hand. Last week, I wrote out two checks and three short notes and felt they were al really nice. But then I tried to sign my name to a group card after 45 minutes of water therapy and could hardly even read my own writing! So fatigue is a HUGE factor in my fine motor abilities now, it would seem.


It has been a rather encouraging week. Several friends from water therapy said my recent gains are really visible and they just can't believe my improvements. My water therapy teacher marveled at the brain's power to heal and said she never would have believed I would have ever come so far. My mother-in-law has commented on my "sharpness" a couple of times lately, when I came up with workable solutions to problems before anyone else could. A stranger saw me walking with a cane and wanted to know if I was recovering from back surgery. That question used to always be if I had been in a recent auto accident, but it has been quite a while now since anyone asked that (unless they see me walking with my daughter, her two casts and her wheelchair)! I visited with a friend in the hospital today and actually put my cane down and was able to help with lifting her to sit upright in bed (OK, she fell back into the soft bed once) and she commented on how strong I've become. (She had visited me in the hospital and remembers when I couldn't sit up on my own either!) And I could even manage my trike this afternoon on a test drive, when my goal in picking it up today had been not even to move the thing yet, but just work on learning to sit upright on the seat today!

 
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." - 1 John 3:16

Monday, May 19, 2014

My Week

I've gone 10 days since my last post. I don't know if I have ever gone so long between posts here?

My hubby cut this beautiful first rose of the year and brought it to me from my garden. <3
So life has been rushing forward. Lots of medical stuff with our daughter, hours of research, lots of phone calls (my favorite, you know), physical therapy for her due to the nerves of her healed broken foot having become hypersensitized while in the cast and still not even being able to tolerate the gentlest touch nor bear weight on the foot. (The therapist says treating this condition is walking the fine line between therapy and utter torture, but if left untreated, the condition only worsens. He has seen grown, muscle-builder, men, in her condition, literally strapped down and yelling out in pain when lightly touched with a feather.) This pain could take a few months to resolve if it goes forward with appropriate healing. She's also still in the cast on her wrist. Please pray for R as we work all this out, especially as most of my regular driving team and back up drivers have various scheduling conflicts over the next month, so we are trying to work a crazier-than-normal schedule out with back-up-back-up-driving friend coverage. I am so richly blessed to have so many people willing and trying to help out here! Thank you to my new friend from the gym, Mary, who has jumped in and offered to get me to and from water therapy for the next few weeks. (Glenda, if you are reading this, I just heard about your injury and why I'm not seeing you at water therapy lately, so I'm praying for you!)
My left leg and somewhat my arm too, have been really stepped up in the pain department since my fall last month. I'm walking pretty well again, but ankle still feels tight and sore enough that I winced when trying to put my shoe on yesterday morning. It is just one of those things. "It is what it is." Stress is likely compounding it all.
I had broken a tooth on my "good" chewing side that takes all the brunt of my eating force now. The good news is that I went a few weeks forcing myself to chew with my more stroked, weak, numb-ish, TN pain side, so I re-leaned how to force my misaligned jaw to meet over there if it absolutely has no other option. I did have to fall back on many of my rehab hospital therapy trick for successful eating, but it was great to see how far I have compensated using only the right side of my mouth for most things now! Chewing on my left was painful enough that a few times I chose to chew right still, on the broken tooth and raw, swollen, bloody exposed portion of gum because that pain was significantly more tolerable than the trigeminal nerve pain shooting up the outside of my face if I tried with the left side.


I got the tooth fixed on Saturday, slept long and hard and was pretty miserable Saturday afternoon and evening, but had relatively normal feeling back in the less stroked side by Sunday morning. It was a very strange sensation to have my still numb-ish stroked side be the side with greatest feeling for an afternoon! It also made me newly aware of how much usable feeling I actually have back on the left side of my mouth, even if it is significantly compromised now. It is so nice to have a whole tooth there on the right again and no longer be fighting an exposed little portion of gum-line! Here's what I managed to do to my lip on Saturday while the right was totally without feeling (my laptop takes pictures in mirror image, so the big white bite mark and fat lip is actually on my right, even if it would seem to be on the left):

My sweet friend, Shelly, and I are co-hosting another season of the (in)Courager email / Facebook group for women with chronic illnesses. If this describes you, we would so love to have you join us this semester at (in)Hope. But if you are not looking for a small chronic illness community, please check out any of the 70 other, free, safe, amazing, women-only communities over at (in)Courage, only accepting new member this week, and asking for a participation commitment just until July 4. It is so wonderful to exchange messages and ideas and love with a small group of ladies who really "get it" about the unique challenges of your life. So single or married, infertile or empty nester, professional Mommy or fitting professional life around motherhood, military, struggling with anything from depression to cancer, wanting to hone the craft of writing, there is a special group just quivering with joy to welcome you into their "family" this week. Won't you please, join us! #incouragers #inHope #inCourage

 
http://www.incourage.me/community/incourager-groups

There is a song you have likely heard "1,000 times" already. I had too, but they gripped me with new power this month. I always liked the song, was moved by it even, but now I hold it especially dear. What if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know you here.

Blessings, sung by Laura Story

This beautiful story still brings me to tears (even though I can't usually cry any more). http://www.faithit.com/people-stunned-chose-marry-him-they-said-never-work-3-years-later-couldnt-be-better-ian-larissa/ I know what it feels like to be trapped in your body like that man. You know what, it feels just like you and I feel every day, with the profound exception that when you go to see, or speak, or move your body, it doesn't respond like you expect it will. Others think you are less than intelligent because they see such a damaged exterior, know this is a result of brain injury, so automatically believe your thought processing must be just as badly damaged making your understanding that of a young child. I guess when physical needs, and to some extent even emotional needs now, regress to such childish level of needed care, the presumption that adult intelligence has followed suit is pretty normal, but it is frustrating to be treated that way when it is not an accurate picture of reality.

 
Yes, my IQ points did drop with my strokes (I was in the 160s and am now estimated to be around 130), but that doesn't mean I can't still handle intelligent, even complex, thought and reasoning, even when I can't get the words to come out as smoothly as they are flowing through my brain. I was frustrated in trying to verbally express myself the other day and exclaimed to my husband, "Really, what I write does make sense!" For me, the time to gather and compose thoughts through my fingertips works out so much better than trying to get the same ideas out through spoken words!


...so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. - John 16:33 MSG
 

Friday, May 9, 2014

What A Difference

As good great news goes, Rick and I actually spent about 10 minutes simply chatting about life this morning without so much as the threat of tears. Wow! We didn't cover anything terribly exciting, but we got to just "hang out" and be friends for once. Such a joyful and refreshing blessing. <3


As Rick put it, when we had a smaller success on a medical trip last weekend, our relationship is like therapy, a terribly slow process, but just like I had to relearn to walk, step-by-step, we are learning how to build our friendship all over again. Here's an interesting article related to the emotional rebuilding required of stroke rehab. (Mom, just for yours a my reference later, here's an article I want to remember about one of my medications too, for next time I see my endocrinologist.)

If anyone can remind me were this sea glass beach is located, I would love to label the picture!
Our conversation was cut short by our 8-year-old's panicked voice, "Mom! Dad! I broke an egg in my pants!" Say what? He had gone out to do his morning chore of feeding our chickens and gathering eggs before school, had more eggs to carry than he could hold, didn't take the egg basket with him, so "solved" the problem by trying to shove several eggs into his school uniform pants pocket, then came back in the house and continued with other chores and school preparation until he heard a crack and felt raw egg dripping down the inside of his pant leg. So much for relaxing and being ahead of schedule for the morning. Rick fished the slimed handkerchief out of his pants pocket and cleaned up our boy while I went to get fresh pants out of his dresser.

 
 

The soap opera continues. This afternoon, our 11-yearold, in double casts and a wheel chair, came rolling up to the table and I had to try "running" out of her way to keep from getting run over. Have you ever seen a woman with impaired reflexes try to side-step a charging wheelchair? Very, very THANKFULLY, no body got hurt this time, but it was one of those moments that I imagine must have looked pretty funny. I just shook my head at the thought of what our family life would look like as a movie and concluded, it's just too ridiculous to make it to the big screens because it is too unbelievable and sounds much to far-fetched. (This is the same little girl who has both a broken foot, broken wrist, two retainers affixed in her jaws, and just had 2 teeth pulled yesterday afternoon. I guess she is doing things by twos this spring!)


I'm really focused on and appreciative of passages such as those presented in Have You Embraced Suffering So Much That You Don't Expect Blessings? and Remembering My Way Out Of The Flood right now. Thus I could focus on how we did NOT get hurt today, how Rick and I DID get to spend a few minutes without tears, how our daughter has had very little pain and some mighty funny stories from her tooth extractions last night (and made it to school today when I was planning to keep her home), how I got another 1 1/2 sub-sections (out of 61) written in Harvesting Hope from Heartache this week, so I only have 10 sub-sections and some major editing work left to go now. Oh, and I hit 50 people on the Friend Connect widget here today! :D


This writing is taking about 3 time as long as I expected it would, but I figure it is a form of therapy and good for my brain too, so I'm trying to change my perspective to see it in this light rather than feeling discouraged that my old way of doing things is so changed in this area along with so many others.



I had wanted to put together some Mother's Day resources for my infertile and bereaved mom friends. Since I won't get to that this week, here are my post several years of thoughts, reflections and resources on the topic: Motherless Mother's Day.


I wish I knew the author, but love this "anonymous" poem making the Facebook rounds right now:

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye."

 

I wrote the following entry two years ago. For some reason they only saved to my drafts and never posted on the blog, but it is so far from where I am today, that I'm going to go ahead and post it live now, as a simple reminder to myself of where I was and what God has carried me through:


------------- From June, 2 years ago, originally entitled "Black Mornings": ----------------

I hesitate to even write. Who wants to be brought low by reading the ramblings of a depressed woman?

Mornings always seem to be my darkest. I am out of bed and isolated because I might start a fight with my husband as soon as he wakes up and I don't want to do that to him, yet again. It is, sadly, easier not to talk than to end up worked up, exhausted and overcome with tears every time we try, with nothing resolved.

In the hospital my sun rose and set by that man. I came home from the hospital actually praying that God would not allow me to make him an idol, because I depended on him so critically, with my very life, literally.

Now it seems that all I do in our relationship is bring pain. I wonder, again, why God didn't just let me die last fall, rather than allowing our family such heartbreak all these months. Why does everything, even an attempted word of thanks, always backfire so terribly?

The kids leave again tomorrow. I've had fun pretending I was actually their mom, but back to reality now. I really hate this yo-yo ride! I'm told it is for my own good, for their good, so why does it hurt so fiercely?

I've worked so hard on not crying, not loosing my temper or control of my emotions the last few weeks. There is so much to cry about: relationship losses, ears, hands, mouth, eyes, starting another day without walking and non-working legs/lack of balance that's pretty much driven me to give up any hope of walking by my birthday, constant jaw pain, insurance troubles, therapy troubles, knowing that I am hurting my family, our daughter's foot, separation from the kids, that my six-year-old can cut, color and write better than I can, physical ugliness, and so much more.

I know Rick thinks I blames himself for all this. He has made incredible choices through a terribly stressful time and I generally feel quite protected and cared for by him! There are just a couple areas where I question his decisions and he knows why (in my less-than-gentle nagging ways). The rest, I know he longs to fix for me, I am hurt by or frustrated over, but I do not blame him! I need to be able to safely express these things without expectation that he will fix them, without blame being assigned or felt, and without the anger that wells up in me without a sufficient target. I can no longer cry quietly, so even if I hold it together until someone leaves the room, once the dam breaks, there is no holding back the flood and everyone hears, even from the other room. There is no safe vent and much to be vented, so Rick gets the brunt of my frustration.

Something has got to give, got to change. I can look 10 years down the road and hope maybe it will all get better somehow, but what if it doesn't? What if this is life now? Even if it does change, how do we get through today? And what of the years when our children are still young enough to need a Mamma? It was for my husband and kids I fought to live and now I can't be who I was, who I long to be, for any of them. This is such a mess!

I had Rick convinced enough that I was "doing better" that he told my doctor as much. I am doing a bit better from the worst, but I am not doing well. I had some days where I felt like I could see sunlight filtering through the fog, but darkness has descended again and I feel lost.

I know this is not all about me, and I grieve for the pain I am causing to family in my wake. But I am overwhelmed and have great hope for eternity, but it is the in between, the rest of my earthly life, that terrifies me. I am trying to cling to God's grace through it all, but it is blind faith right now.

------- About a month earlier, 2 years ago today ---------

Apparently some of what I've said about our marriage has left folk with great concern. I love the prayer and the kindness, but want to set the record straight today. It is a fact that this is the hardest storm we have ever weathered. It is also a fact that I do not process emotions well and this leads to unintentional hurts on  both sides. What I want to make clear is, though I could not see or process this well for many months because of my emotional and mental deficits, Rick has been more than gracious, forgiving and is assuring me of his faithfulness and commitment in countless ways.

I still fall apart very easily (The other morning I had a melt-down over a pair of pants. Even at the time, I didn't feel terribly upset, but the emotional reactions are significantly disproportionate to reality. This gets really old when it happens consistently, for months on end.) but Rick is being very gentle and patient with me.  It has been hard, no doubt, and I have been very doubtful, at times. But Rick has finally convinced me that he's here to stay. We still need prayer, absolutely, but we seem to be doing better and it as not as bleak as I have led many to presume. This was not intentional on my part but I apologize to everyone who has believed otherwise.

Many of you are struggling with relationships or have been hurt by broken ones. I am praying for you all, several specifically by name. I do not take lightly the gift I have been given. I will fight, alongside Rick, to make our marriage work. I know this is only possible when two are working together - we are and I am thankful for all he puts into sacrificing to make that happen. A friend once said to me, "Marriage is not about happiness, but holiness." I am blessed to experience the grace of both!

Rick often exemplifies the command of Ephesians 5:25 that says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." I still need your daily prayers. We, as a couple, still need wisdom in how to process all this. Rick has to deal with me and my writhing emotions, so I ask your prayers for him in this matter. We are both human and fallen and there is no perfect love but Christ alone. Realizing this, I am very blessed to be married to such a caring man. Thank you for your ongoing prayers.

---------------------------------
And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. - 1 Corinthians 15:19

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Beauty and the Beast


Here's a Facebook post I'm sharing today:
On October 25, 2011 I suffered multiple, near-fatal strokes during a chiropractic neck adjustment. If you wonder how this would even be possible, I've explained it all at http://strokeofgrace.blogspot.com/2013/10/chiropractic-strokes-how.html  May is National Stroke Awareness Month. ‪#‎chiropracticstroke‬ ‪#‎strokeawareness‬ ‪#‎youngstroke‬ Please share my story and help get the word out in order to spread awareness. I am posting regular updates at Stroke of Grace by Jennifer Saake if you wish to follow along in my recovery journey. Most chiropractors do not practice informed consent (and mine didn't carry insurance, then left the country soon after my injury). If you could post on FB or tweet, with these hashtags, that you know a stroke survivor, you may save a life! Thanks. <3
Beauty Faces Jaws of Beast (Strokes)
 On Twitter I put:
I stroked at age 39 from something you may regularly do!     
Beauty Tames Beast - With God, the beast is loosing his bite!
Today is also the National Day of Prayer. Please join me in lifting our nation before the Lord.


 
Kathy came over and helped me reclaim a parts of the house today. I had managed fairly well until my daughter broke her second bone before we even had the first healed up! Between her inability to do her normal chores with both an arm and a foot in casts, and all the extra demand of caring for her injuries, the house had gotten pretty bad over the past couple weeks. So very thankful for the help.

 
 
Be on the lookout for notification that I may soon be inviting you to a Paparazzi Jewelry party. This is (typically, but if you don't have Facebook, I think there is a website address I can get for you) all done via Facebook and last for a few days. It is the same company that I did a giveaway with a couple of months ago, but even if you don't win a giveaway, the trendy, costume jewelry is almost at giveaway pricing already, at just $5 per item (plus tax and shipping if you are outside of the Reno area), with earrings included with necklaces for that single price of just $5. If I do a party, it will be to help my friend Jonnie establish her new business as an income source in the wake of her brain tumor, surgeries, meningitis and multiple hospitalization expenses. Stay tuned for details!

 
In case you are wondering, here is my review of the movie Heaven is for Real. :)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9