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!)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Almost 34 Months

The bulk of what I want to share are my thoughts on depression and suicide, spurred on my blogging from Gay Idol and her post Tears of a Clown, reflections on Robin Williams' suicide.  You may read my thoughts by following my link to Gay's blog, or in the quote (of my own words) in pink, at the end of today's post.

I had another two month lag in water therapy. These things sometimes happen when you are without a driver's license and others in your life have their own lives to live, oh, like surgery! (Mom's recovering slowly, but nicely. Thanks for your prayers!) When I returned to the gym this week, it was interesting how my left leg throbbed within about two minutes of being in the water, before I had even asked it to do much yet. It was like a whining little kid, complaining at what it knew I was about to ask of it. Crazy!

Oh the good news side, I came the closest I have come since the strokes to actually being able to balance and walk the straight pool line in the water. Granted, by best attempt probably still wouldn't equate to you worst try, but I'm seeing a wee bit improvement in "tightrope" style walking that has totally eluded me all the months and that's exciting! Also my hips and shoulders responded really well to the return to the pool, significant reductions in pain in these areas.

My lower back was a bit achy for a day of so, just normal muscle protest from restarting use of muscles that have been relatively neglected for too long. My neck, not too happy with me, thus some pretty intense headaches, but better than the "good" hip that had gotten so angry over my unsteady gait. Win some, loose some. It is what it is.

I have dealt with a lot of hiccups since my strokes. I've read this is a cerebellar or brain stem issue, I can't remember which and honestly don't feel up to trying to track down that particular bit of trivia at the moment. I just remember it was such a constant in the rehab hospital that my therapists always knew I was rolling down the hall well before I got there. The first year home was still pretty bad, but the past several months it is usually just a few random hiccups here and there, scattered throughout almost every day, along with the occasional "normal" round of hiccups anyone might face, apparently often aggravation of the Vega (?) nerve running from the brain to abdomen. Yesterday I got hit with those reminiscent to the hospital, for the first time in many months. Hard, fierce, several-a-minute, shake-your-rib-cage, punch-you-in-the-gut, unrelenting for over half an hour. Frustrating and painful! Loud and all-consuming. Holding breath didn't slow them in the least, nor drinking water. I was about to try a sugar trick a friend suggested when they stopped just as abruptly and inexplicably as they started. I had a few more random hiccups throughout the rest of the day, but nothing significant. Nothing today. Living in stroke recovery is just plain odd!

They are well past their prime and I really wish I had taken pictures two or three days ago, but this is the daily joy and encouraging view from my chair, given to me by my hubby last week in celebration of God's grace in giving us 22 years of marriage that so easily should not have weathered many of those years:

So often the church at large wants to make depression a purely spiritual issue. That as long as you are a Christian you cannot possibly face depression and still be in a right relationship with the Lord. I love how you talked of the complex interaction between mind, spirit and body then said, "That is not to say that people who are Christians do not struggle with depression. Some do. But the answers to our deepest longings can be found in Him. Joy is not a condition of the heart that is brought about by the perfect circumstances in life. Joy is the hope in the One who is our salvation, our hope, and our grace, in spite of the pains, the wounds that we attain in this life on earth. Joy comes about when we allow those feelings of anxiousness, and fear turn us to God, remembering His goodness, even when our world seems to be falling apart; trusting the One who can bring us through the storms of life." 

After my strokes I was deeply depressed (sudden blindness, hearing loss, serious nerve pain, loss of any form of self balance or ability to walk, could do that to a person!) but I surrounded myself with praise music, audio Bibles, and a couple months in when I could finally make limited use of a large print Bible, submerged myself in Scripture that way too. I prayed rather continually and sought the Lord daily, fervently. The pastor, elders, friends would come pray over me, with me. Still, I grew more and more depressed and quite suicidal for many months. 

About 6 months in my doctor convinced me to try an antidepressant, something I had resisted up until this time, thinking depression to be purely circumstantial and needing greater spiritual discipline to come through the storm. We didn't get the medication correctly balanced the very first try, but it was a starting point. Within a few weeks, it was doing enough good that I could see small rays of hope breaking through my despair for the first time, enough so that I was willing to continue working with my doctor to find the correct dose (that, once achieved, offered a night and day difference!). As it turned out, the strokes had caused enough damage to specific emotional processing centers of my brain and the overall chemical balance of this organ, that short of God's divine healing, my brain was simply incapable of creating anything other than a deep, dark slimy pit where joyful emotions should be. The medication was providing a better balance of the chemicals my body should have already been producing on its own, but was simply incapable of now.
Once I got on the right dosage of medication, my body had also had many months to gain physical healing, so the circumstances, while still daunting, were no longer as intensely grim nor dire. I also gained insurance approval to start counseling, so I finally had professional help to start unpacking emotional baggage. When the mind and body were properly addressed, ALONG WITH the spiritual, then there was room for spiritual healing as well. My prayer, from the beginning had been "restore to me the joy of Your salvation" and God DID both renew a right spirit within me and overwhelm me with His joy.
At almost 3 years, I now walk with a cane, have mostly restored vision, have regained a little hearing, but the chronic physical pain issues become more intense all the time (and were horrid to start with). So if we are going purely by circumstantial issues, there are great gains in some areas and ongoing losses in others. But I will tell you, I would so much rather choose this physical pain along with restored hope, than the emotional/spiritual writhing of depression!
Lest you think I am making an argument for depression being purely chemical, physical or circumstantial, I still believe there is a great spiritual interplay as well. A year ago I went through several weeks of a slippery slide springily downward, back into the slimy pit. I couldn't understand what nor why this was happening. I was on the verge of calling my doctor and asking him to raise my antidepressant dose, when a STILL SMALL VOICE broke through to my heart to remind me I had been neglecting consistent time alone with Him over recent weeks. Oh, my life was filled with good "Christian things" but in the new-found business, one-on-one intimacy with the Lord was lacking.
I returned to Him, confessed my neglect, and recommitted myself to seeking out priority alone time with Christ. Amazingly, all traces of my heavy heart vanished within a few days! When I start to struggle now, as I still do at times, my first question is always honest self-evaluation of the state of intimacy I'm enjoying (or not) with my Heavenly Father. Often a little adjustment there will make an indescribably amount of difference! If it doesn't bring about immediate positive change, I now know there could be other physical or mental issues at play, so I think through recent dietary choices, physical exercise schedule, check my pill box to be sure I haven't been missing any antidepressant doses over the past week, and I have yet to face a time when the heart/soul, mind and body are all being cared for as they should that I could even fathom suicide as a viable option anymore! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Advice from One Chiropractor to Another

Sometimes the kindest thing a person can do is NOT treat you even if you are begging for help and think them uncaring at the time! "Sometimes the best medical care is no care at all. Not rendering a therapy of any type seems to be against everything we were taught. It is our human nature to render something substantial to help. The inner salesperson kicks into mode whether subconsciously or not and without avaricious intent to render a substantial service.
This physician’s most enlightening moment of their life will be to say NO this type of medical treatment is not for you and to refer out to another medical specialist. Not only will the patient and family embrace you, but the whole community will know and respect you for your decision.
We as clinical physicians are so wrapped up in schools and seminars, which teach us to treat and how to treat. This article intends to have the treating physician rendering spinal manipulative therapy to make a decision whether to treat, treat with a co-physician of another complimenting diagnostic or treatment procedure, or just refer out without any treatment for another medical specialty treatment or opinion.
In the many years of my clinical and consulting career, I have come across and reviewed multitudes of cases where the treating physician has deviated from the proper standard of medical care. Even in my clinical career I make a choice whether to accept a patient, co-treat, or refer out all together.
This, however, does not mean to underestimate or insult my colleagues of all medical specialties that render medical spinal manipulation, but only to truly draw attention to the contraindications of spinal manipulation. This has been a huge delinquency in the medical community, which has lead to too many malpractice cases that were reported and could have been most certainly avoided."  - Contraindications and Proper Applications of Spinal Manipulation, Experts.com

The article goes on to say, "It is my opinion and the consensus of the medical community, that all people should not be “adjusted”, that is receiving spinal manipulation, despite what they may or may not have been taught in chiropractic schools and at seminars. [emphasis added] It seems that so many chiropractors try so hard to fit each patient and/or their condition into some type of treatment plan. There are so many cases where spinal manipulation is contraindicated; the “absolutely don’t touch” policy should be enacted immediately. Let me make it clear, that you sometimes even should refrain from active ranges of motion...after the consultation you might even refer out."
 "The proper medical protocols and correct proper standard of care must be followed for the well being of the patient. A violation of this can lead to a malpractice suit in causation of injuries by you."

And, "In the course of human history spinal and joint manipulation has been delivered by parents, spouses, medical physiciansosteopath physiatrists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, sport trainers and just plain layman. They just innately felt that this was the correct treatment to render. This therapy has been actively practiced for thousands and thousands of years of lying on of the hands to the spine to relieve pain and restriction..." 

"It is so important, and is the proper standard of chiropractic care, to gather past medical records and/or to conference with past treating physicians whether chiropractors or medical doctors. It is imperative not to depend only on what the patient tells you whatever the patient’s occupation.

"Now armed with all this precautionary armor, the practitioner of the requested service of spinal manipulation care can either accept this case or not. Please, the comprehensive consultation and examination, the gathering of past medical records and information of past traumas along with conferencing with other past or present medical providers is essential before accepting a case for chiropractic care.

"So, stop, think and listen... If your going to accept this patient have them sign an informed consent form... We must protect ourselves but most importantly not harm anyone..."

"Over the many years in this profession we have been to haphazard just giving informal chiropractic adjustments. We should know better than to be like a sports trainer or fellow athlete performing a maneuver looking for cracks. We know that the joint will make an audible release whether it is moved back in place or not. Actually this separates the great busy practitioner from the on who doesn’t get good results. Just making noises does not correct subluxations. It could actually harm the patient. The reason we have that doctor title is to have the knowledge to differentiate between when to treat and when not to treat. It is imperative to conduct ourselves at all times as if this and any case will be presented in a professional malpractice case. A professional liability malpractice case could be brought against you for causation of injuries or as simple as a deviation of the proper standard of current chiropractic care or both..."

"You should treat spinal and pelvic manipulation as if it was a surgical procedure and never anything less..."

"The medical spinal manipulation can be chiropractic, osteopathic or rendered by other medical or non-medical persons all potentially ending in disastrous results. A definitive diagnosis and prognosis must be reached prior to treatment thru a comprehensive history and examination. There is a systematic medical protocol that must be adhered. This may even lead to radiological or imaging studies (MRI) prior to spinal manipulative treatment. Most important in this discovery procedure, is to determine if the patient is a candidate for SMT. Their symptoms may not be coming from spinal or pelvic misalignments. Their spinal and or pelvic structures may not be in good structural condition to accept a manipulation procedure. There can be so many co-morbidity factors such as congenital abnormalities, prior accidents, family histories and or cardiovascular susceptibilities that could end in death or stroke. These all must be ruled out prior to any treatment..."

Under "Standard of Care," there are 12 big key issues highlighted on what a chiropractor should or should not consider with every single adjustment (Chiropractic "Dirty Dozen"). A couple that jumped off the page at me (because the are from the "shoulds" and were NOT done in my case) are "Perform at least four vertebral artery insufficiency test, especially for females, smokers, steroid or birth control and blood thinner medications." and "Check for congenital abnormalities or space occupying lesions, yes, this can take time, dig deep and be a good detective and easily refer for radiological and or diagnostic imaging studies." His last point is, REMEMBER, "“WHAT CAN DO GOOD, CAN DO HARM!” ACTIVATOR AND/ OR OTHER MECHANICAL SMT TOOLS CAN DO HARM TO A CONTRAINDICATED PATIENT. [My presumption is that SMT stands for "Spinal Manipulation Therapy" given the context in which this abbreviation is used throughout the article.]

If only my doctor had followed this advice!

See what The American Heart Association now says about manipulation-caused stroke. And this article states, "Cervical artery dissection is responsible for 8 to 25 % of stroke cases in public under the age of 45." So avoid neck manipulation and it would be great to see this numbers drop dramatically!

Canadian Neurologists Warn against Neck Manipulation

Brain Injury Fatigue: "There are two types of fatigue: physical fatigue and mental fatigue. "Physical" refers to doing some sort of physical labor such as mowing the lawn or working in a flower garden. Just after a head injury, physical fatigue may be troublesome. For example, if you're relearning to walk, the amount of effort it requires to relearn to coordinate the muscles and build up strength is going to be substantial. For most people, physical fatigue tends to go away after 6 months. What surprises people with a head injury is the mental fatigue. For example, you could spend all day in your yard pulling out weeds and not feel tired from it, but an hour of balancing the checkbook will leave you exhausted. This is mental fatigue, and tends to go on for long periods of time. Let's use another analogy. Think of owning a car that you can only fill with half a tank of gas. You can now only go half as far as you used to. When you run out of gas, the engine stops. With mental fatigue, it's as if the brain runs out of chemicals and just shuts down." [At nearly 3 years, I'm still fighting the mental as well as the physical!]

Arterial view of neck rotation via chiro-trust.org
AHA Neck Manipulation As A Cause of Stroke

One man's story of being in the 10% who survive Locked In Syndrome for more than 4 months.

Not "advertising" nor condoning the medical practitioners nor solution presented at the end of this video, but really appreciate the explanations of how injury may be obtained.

As pointed out by Donna Freeman from the League of Chiropractic National Safety, chiropractors will state that VAD (vertebral artery dissection) is "400x more likely to happen in someone who suffered a "whiplash" so then why are chiropractors adjusting them 2-3 x a week..??????? Would this not then be a patient who is contraindicated to receive treatment then????"
picture from Chiro-Trust.org

picture from chiro-trust.org

 Donna Freeman also discovered this little nugget for me. Dr. David Cassidy PC is quoted in many trials as an expert example against chiropractic strokes etc..yet he admits in this video that he..that HE..himself.. is guilty of causing a stroke in a patient!!!!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Reviews and Random Thoughts

I keep thinking of things I should include in this blog and I have so many random little thoughts collected over the last few weeks, I'll never manage to get them all down anyway, but I figured I should start their own thread just for this collection. I'll even break my own rule of not editing once I have posted live (to keep a  true record of where I'm at in posting ability in any given season) and warn you now that I plan to continue editing in more thought as I remember them over the next few days.

And of course, now that I'm here, I'm drawing a total blank on all I had to say...

I'll start with Facebook and share some stories and updates from the week:

I recently posted this picture.

While actually quite valid, I wasn't prepared for the ripple impact of sharing that portion of my reality. So let me balance this by saying, "So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever." - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message

Or as I shared on another group a day or two earlier, "Last night I laid in bed in so much pain that I just wanted to die, then it hit me that (thankfully) I was no longer seeking to die as much as I just wanted to "stop living" for a few minutes, find an escape, a reprieve, from physical pain. That distinction is HUGE and shows me how intensely God keeps working on my heart." And "I so felt the "I would rather be dead than live like this" thing for a LONG time after my strokes. While not in physical agony, kind of gave me a new perspective of Jesus' choice to leave the perfection and glory of Heaven to willingly live like this, in all the sin and yuck of this world, just because He loves me! http://strokeofgrace.blogspot.com/p/never-give-up.html "

Speaking of pain, I found Epsom salt lotion a couple months ago. I'm really impressed with this product! Putting it on, you feel nothing special, it just feels like putting lotion on. Then, a couple hours later, you realize it really has been turning your pain volume down! It's basically just like taking an epsom salt soak, but without the bath part, wonderful if you are short on time, need relief at a place that's hard to soak, or have mobility issues, like me, making the tub a challenge!

A selection of adaptation tools I have been wanting to share with you are all available through Miles Kimball (and I use personally, affiliate link - Free Shipping on orders over $39 use code 122627 - updated 9/17/14), but you might want to check eBay, Amazon or other retailers too. :)

Easy-Twist Jar Opener (About $5)

Similar products on Amazon.

Ring Pull (Around $5)

Hands-Free Baggy Rack (About $7)

Free-Standing Card Holders (Around $9)
Our extended family plays a lot of kinds of card games. This makes the difference of me participating or not.

Suction-Grip Tub Bar (Around $10)

Telescopic Tub and Tile Scrubber
I can clean my tub without falling!

One MK product I did not find helpful was this Walker Tray that did not set sturdily enough across my walker, but I did use the Wheelchair /Walker Organizer literally to pieces (not really commentary on product quality, though maybe it could have been made more sturdily, but on the fact that I used it so long and hard)!I also found this Kegel Exerciser to be good in helping regain bladder control. If I had found it sooner, I would have gotten great use out of this Terry Bib with Velcro Closure too! I haven't tried it yet, but soon plan to order this 14-day Pill Holder. This Pedal Exerciser also looks like a really affordable way to work or leg and/or arm therapy here at home! (links coming, I just ran out of steam to look them all up)

Something I found randomly online that I have not tried (at $58), but looks neat, is the Single Hand Cook from Yanko Design. Wow! Looks like it can help with just about anything but washing dishes! I've heard of one-handed cutting boards before, but this is beyond anything else I've seen. If I still didn't have any use of my left arm, I would be giving it serious consideration!

Two other products I am looking to get are a hands-free can opener (I've already burned through two brands, so open to suggestions) and a cane with a built-in seat, I've seen both disk and hammock styles now. I'm still looking...

I'm into the idea of essential oils (at least the few I can tolerate scent-wise) and though I've never ingested, I know I will want to find this article of caution again in the future.

The Ministry Of Intercessory Prayer is supposed to be available for fee eBook download sometime next week (maybe tomorrow), so I'm posting the link here so I can keep checking for the freebie (on Amazon too). Sounds like a good book. Other eBooks (and freebies) are found here.

I was thinking through how to describe everyday life and everyday frustrations now. I've got to start by saying I CAN DO some much now and I am so very, terribly grateful!!! Sharing the challenges does not negate the victories, just trying to give you a realistic glimpse into my life still...

Yesterday I folded 5 blankets. I did a good job. It just took me half an hour to accomplish the task.

Yesterday, Kathy came after 6 weeks away. My house was READY for some TLC! We think every 4 weeks or so my be about right for cleaning help now. Every other week seems more than I absolutely need now but 6 weeks was a little longer than I could manage well on my own. When she started coming the house would be TRASHED upon each weekly visit. And not only regular cleaning, we've also been able to accomplish some wonderfully helpful reorganizing chores together. Kathy, our lives would look SO very different if God had not chosen to place you into our home over these last few years. Thank you could never express my heart for your bountiful friendship! <3

I had two pictures off the wall from when we took family pictures. Either one I had to stand in an awkwardly balance-compromised position to rehang. One, I got up by myself to Kathy's astonished comment of' "You sure couldn't have managed THAT not so long ago!" The second was a little more of a stretch and after multiple attempts and nearly dropping the picture, I yielded to Kathy's willing aid before shattering the glass. She hang it in one graceful step. So I'm not "there" yet, by a long-shot, but I'm gaining. :)

I used to sing ALL. THE. TIME., pre-strokes. God is slowly returning music to my heart, but my voice often does not follow what I hear in my head. Compared to the croaky monotone I had for so many months, my singing voice has come back very well, but it hit me pretty hard the other day when I was trying to work with our daughter for a music competition, that I still have FAR to go! She was struggling to hit a specific note. In my head I could totally "hear" the exact note she needed to produce, but from my throat I could not even get close to what I wanted her to emulate, if my life depended on it. It wasn't that it was high nor "hard" just required a precision I fully lack!

I know I had about three other "daily life" frustration examples from the last couple of days to share with you to give you an "all in a day" view of post-stroke life, but I will have to come back when I think of them, for I'm coming up absolutely blank right now! Any other strokies have "normal" frustration" stories to share in the comments?

By special request, ;) before there were minions in my life (I love minions, just in case you didn't know!)...
there was...

Hamster on a Piano! LOL
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Eph 2:8
Remember when I posted this picture in my last post?
I like this one so much better!