Starting October 25 of 2011, "InfertilityMom," 39-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes, all due to vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office. The largest two strokes were brain stem and cerebellum bleeds. Jenni remained hospitalized until nearly Christmas 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 (please read more and watch short video). Jenni is now walking (with a cane or wheeled walker), has recovered much eye-sight, some hearing, partial use of her hands, cares for most of her own personal/toiletry needs, and is currently writing three books, maintains multiple blogs, and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Near the five-year recovery mark, Jenni has renewed her pre-stroke excitement about the unique Lilla Rose hair Flexi eight jewelry she sells and has finally regained enough hand/arm function to regularly use! (The biggest ongoing losses at the 4 1/2-year point of recovery are left-side nerve pain, inability to drive, loss of homeschool teaching capability, significant sound processing issues (often triggering nausea), and some profound physical ability limitations such as a limp, balance challenges, clumsy use of right hand and only large motor function in left hand.) 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 equipts you to send any monetary assistance as well, this is a significant added blessing.

Jenni is clinging to God's grace through the entire experience. Here is her unfolding story, documented in her own words (typing with only her right hand), as she perceives it happening in real time, messy, honest and to the glory of God...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting Glamed


I'm feeling much better today. Still low on energy, and a touch of a sore throat hanging around, but my tummy is MUCH happier! I took a shower, did my makeup to hide my worst zits, applied the Jamberry Nail Wraps I ordered from Kendra's party, sorted and started laundry (if I'm past the sore throat by morning, one of my big goals for tomorrow will be folding, Kathy), figured out tonight's and tomorrow night's dinner (hadn't made them, but both pretty easy and last minute kind of things, the planning is the biggest challenge for me), and practiced both jumping and the flute! I haven't gotten the dishwasher unloaded from yesterday yet, but kids will be home from school to give me back up, any minute now. (The door opened just after I typed that!)

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I would think it would likely take less than twenty minutes for people who have two fully working hands. :)

My mom has found a few grey hairs at the back of my head when she brushes my hair. Monday I found the first one near my face. It was silvery and shiny , down the whole length of that hair, so I think it literally changed over night in order for me never to notice before!



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jump Day 74 of 100
 
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flute, day 9 0f 100
2 Corinthians 4:16

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

That's How The Cookie Crumbles

We had three of us home with a tummy bug today. I did manage to get the dishwasher loaded today, but that was ALL I had the energy for, and I had to try just a couple of dishes at a time, then take long drinks of electrolyte drinks and go rest again between each dish.

Oh, I managed to do my hair to (see flute video below). The new detangling brush Rick got me for Christmas makes a world of difference, though six months ago, even two months ago, I didn't have enough hand skill that it would have made a difference! Kendra, my Jamberry Nails came last night and hopefully I will feel enough better enough to try them tomorrow! :)

 

Both of my friend who had brain surgery last week are home now and doing well. It will be a long road toward recovery, but as bad as they were both feeling before surgery, we pray that recovery will come quickly. Thank you for praying!

 
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Day 8 of flute
 
Deuteronomy 6:5
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
 
 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rockin' & A Rollin'

I'm taking the easy way out today and saying my update will just be what I posted over at InfertilityMom today. My tummy is "a rockin' an a rollin' " (bar-bar-bar-bar-Barbra-ann), so no flute attempt today. I snuck the jumping attempt in after sleeping way in this morning and before my tummy totally revolted.

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Day 72 of 100
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13
 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

27 months

2 years, 3 months. This post is a day late. Yesterday was just a bad day, plain and simple.

 
To give a little context here, I have been really working on my current book manuscript again. Satan doesn't like that. Bad days don't really take me by surprise at times like this. Just a reminder that I need to especially ask for your prayers right now, that God will sustain me (our whole family!) and that His will, in His timing, are fully accomplished here. I need a purpose God has me here, and in addition to my family, my books give me that drive to not let the devil keep me down, but James 5 tells me, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective," so I know when I'm too weak to fight alone and I'm rallying an army of prayer warriors and asking you to prayer on behalf of God's protection and strength for me and my family! This Means War!


Yesterday started out with a really rough night, dream-wise. This is an area where I haven't shared much here, but my dream world, always vivid and overly-realistic, before the strokes, is exhausting and often highly emotionally charged and so terribly frustrating now. I feel like I am living suspended between three realities of my sleep world without limitation, my prison-like wakeful world, and the beyond imagination Real Life of eternity which I cannot reach right now. I'm expected to live in the very hardest of these realities and if anyone else spent any time in either of the other two, you would understand how terribly painful this is!

 
An hour or so after I woke up, the realization that it was an anniversary date one again, punched me hard in the gut. The realization of all I still am slow and cumbersome in doing, the changes my family faces daily, just really washed over me anew. By 9am I was in tears, with Rick, for the first time. Rick took the littler kids to do school shopping (he admitted, in answer to my direct question, that going without me was faster and easier, and I well remember trying to accomplish errands with toddlers in toe, so I don't begrudge him this truth, it was just one more thing to make me sad and wistful for what life used to be like) and I stayed home and watched a movie with our oldest.

 

All afternoon I was moody and grumpy, so I wished our daughter a happy 11th birthday and put myself to bed. She came back to check on me, a half hour later, and I started crying (a first, to be able to cry with my daughter!) witch started her crying. I told her how very sorry I am that life isn't like it used to be and she replied, "Mom, you don't need to be sorry. The only one who needs to be sorry is that doctor who broke the artery in your neck!" *sigh* I didn't even know how to respond to that, so we just cried together and snuggled for a bit. I have now been able to cry with both my oldest son and our daughter, within the past few weeks, so this is progress!

When talking with Shelly, last week, about her upcoming shunt replacement, I said something to this effect, so she made it into a poster for me. <3
"When your anxiety is sky high, Just remember...so is God!" - Jennifer Saake
Pinned at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/266979084134182675/
Photo Credit: Paul Bica via photopin
Design Credit: Shelly Hendricks of RenewedDaily.com

R. left the room, I cried some more, I journaled for a bit and tried to sleep. I got up about 5:30 and made birthday dinner. In the evening Rick commented that I seemed to be feeling a little better, either that or I was just putting on a happy face. He knows me well. Yes, the tears were a pressure valve release, so from that aspect, I was feeling a little better, but it was just a long day!

"All Fears Washed Away" - (c) Jonnie

Today I'm home from church with the birthday girl on her first full day as an 11-year-old. She told me this morning, "At least it is better than being sick on my birthday!" It is our little guy's first Sunday at church as an 8-year-old. That is part of what I cried over yesterday too, that they are growing up so fast! Little J. really has no memories of his pre-stroked Mama. :( I usually do a pretty good job at looking at life as it is now and saying, "It is what it is." and not playing the comparison game with what was, but some days I just am sad and that too, is what it is.


Odd observation of the day, I often am used to smiling through pain, but this morning is the first time in a few months where it physically hurts to smile, The side of my face didn't even feel sore until I lifted my lips this morning. I am determined, with God's help, I will have a better attitude today, but this little discovery (along with my shoulder hurting more than it has in a while) wasn't a fun start to that plan.


I want to thank you for praying for my friends Jonnie and Shelly as they had brain surgeries this week. Jonnie's surgery went fabulously well and, I believe, she flies home today to start the long road of recovery. Shelly's surgery, upon reports, also seems to have been successful, but she is having a pretty hard go in recovery and has been detained in the hospital twice now for nausea and complications. I have not heard a report since her CT this morning, so please continue to keep both women in prayer. Praise God that no one stroked during surgery as this is my fear when anyone undergoes procedures of the brain!



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Day 71 of 100 in jumping challenge
 
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Day 6 in flute challenge
Psalm 89:2

I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Clawing Forward

Before I forget (again!), I wanted to not only say thank you to all who have voted for me as a Wego Heath Activist nomination for Rookie of the Year, but to also let you know that the website is still open for endorsements (which will weigh heavily into final selection), you can vote once a day (new information to me, so even if you have already helped out once, you are welcome to keep doing so daily), and while endorsement requires down arrow-ing to the purple button below my picture on the right side of the screen, you also can explain or comment on your endorsement to the lower left of the screen, under the light blue "add your nomination reason" button. Thanks for indulging me in this moment of self-promotion. ;)

Kind of feel like these little babies!

I am doing a little better today. My parents got me out of the house for a few hours yesterday. We had lunch out, my mom and I got to spend some play time shopping (retail therapy with my Mommy always really helps lift my spirits!) and I spent an hour with my counselor. I didn't even get a nap but stayed awake through cooking dinner (thanks for the help getting it in the oven, Mom!) and homework with the kids (though 5th grade math was way beyond me and Rick helped our daughter figure out her three troublesome problems in 2 minutes). By 8pm I was totally ready for bed, but it has been a great day (other than the bowel accident that required an emergency purchase of a new pair of pants while we were out shopping today).

This morning, I physically kind of felt hit by a truck when I first tried to get out of bed, staggered pretty badly for the first 20 minutes I was awake, but now that I have my feet up in my recliner, feeling tired but pretty OK. Pretty sure I better try for that nap before the kids get home, but I only had to sleep for about 8 1/2 hours last night! Poor mom was here (folding laundry for me - Thank you Mom!) and I just didn't even have the physical energy to chat or visit much this morning. :(

 
 
Emotionally, I am doing much better today than I have in a while. Thank you for the prayers. Mom thinks Christmas and having the kids home for three weeks may just have been more activity than I could process. I'm thinking the music issues at church have also been much harder on me, over a much more extended period of time, than I had realized. This is the first week (with a much better music experience from Sunday) that by Wednesday I'm not still feeling jittery from the Sunday morning physical backlash. Praise God! Likely, there is some combination of "perfect storm" type of issues, maybe these along with several I mentioned as possibilities in my last post, that all came together at once, to knock me down lately. But, with your prayers, I feel like maybe we are slowly starting to swing (crawl) the other way again.

 
Remember how I just commented on how my ear wasn't really bothering me very much lately? Well, I spoke too soon! I'm sure it is my trigeminal nerve acting up, but ever since that evening, two night ago, I've been repeatedly getting hit with sharp stabbing pains, like an ice pick is being plunged through my left ear drum. the pain radiates down through my jaw (TMJ just loves that!) and the left side of my throat gets itchy and burns and feels blistered and raw inside, only down that one side, for a few minutes. Other than watery eyes, no one would have any idea, looking at me, that I was experiencing anything unusual during those moments. This morning I went to scratch my left temple (where the pain has been pretty quiet for a while) and was rewarded with raw pain where I thought the side of my face must be scabbed and injured up there, but it wasn't. Life never gets dull when you have a body like this to keep you guessing!
 

 
My friend, Kendra, is sending me a set of nail wraps to try to see if they are as stroke friendly for me to be able to do my own nails again as she has found them to be for her (post stroke product review). She is also hosting a party and I learned a couple of fun tips for order placing - if you have three nail wrap sets in your cart, their system is currently prompting you to add a 4th set for FREE! And even though you are taken directly to Kendra's party link, the check out system automatically defaults you to your order having a consultant, but no hostess, so unless you select Kendra from the drop down list, she won't receive party credit when you check out. Please make this one little click adjustment if you are purchasing! I've ordered Queen Anne to try. Aren't these pretty?
 
The application process looks pretty doable for me. We shall soon see:
 


I finally got back to jumping again yesterday, and started a new 100 day goal as well. A year ago I didn't have the lung capacity to even make sound come out of my flute at all, and I still didn't have left arm strength to hold the instrument up to my lips for more than a moment, nor left hand coordination to press the keys. This is where we are today:

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Yesterday was day 1 of new flute project....
 
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and day 66 of existing 100 day jumping goal.
 
(Funny that I'm wearing the same hat hot on both day 1s! That wasn't planned, but maybe it should be from now on.)
Please pray for two friends (neither of them are strokies, actually) having brain surgeries this week. Jonnie had a cyst removed from her brain yesterday and I'm still awaiting updates. Shelly will have a defective shunt replacement on Friday. Neither sound fun! Please pray with me for these two precious ladies!

 

Another birthday week at our house. Our 7-year-old turns eight tomorrow! Our 10-year-old will be 11 this Saturday. (Our oldest turned 14 last month.) My babies are growing up! And to think of how long and hard we prayed for these miracles, how easily they might not have ever been here, of their siblings who never came home. Just wow! My oldest delights in reminding me that he will be in college in 3 1/2 years, but that can't be right. I'm pretty sure he was just born last week or so! Bittersweet...

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Today, day 2 flute.
 
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Day 67 jumping.
 
Proverbs 24:16
for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.
 


Monday, January 20, 2014

Yet More Tears

I have not felt great the past several days, I think both depression-wise and physical too. Hard to figure out even how to describe it to myself. I've been needing to post a blog update but haven't felt up to doing my jumping goal and don't know what to even say in a blog post. I feel drained an un-inspired at the moment.


Kathy was here to clean house (and visit!) on Thursday. I'm guessing she was pretty startled to see the physical decline since she was here last, just two weeks before. I honestly don't know if I just still am struggling to recover from kidney stones, if I am fighting off something, if I'm seeing why the doctors and therapists tend to say your best window for recovery is within the first 6 months to two years (and wonder if this is some weird regression that the therapist knew was likely coming, but no one really warned me about or at least that I didn't listen???), if this is payback for a few months away from the gym (I know my core muscles are all turned to mush and I'm slouching a lot these days), or some of all of the above. I just know that when I saw my neurologist on Monday, he started the appointment with my medical records before him and talked to me long and detailed about the specifics of my kidney stones, my ongoing recovery, the after effects, then looked me in the eye and said, firmly, "If I can offer you any piece of advice, it would be that whatever you do,  DON'T GET SICK because that will mess EVERYTHING up!"

I'm sleeping 10-12 hours each night AND 2-3 hours pretty much every afternoon, basically just to have the energy to mostly sit upright in a recliner. If I skimp on the length of my nap, I can't stay awake for my seven-year-old to read to me for half an hour after school! It feels much like the exhaustion of an ME/CFSIDS relapse, with the exception of a brief burst of renewed energy upon waking each morning and afternoon, whereas ME never allowed me any restorative sleep.


I also have had a particularly low tolerance for sound, noise, pain, light, and other such neuro stimulation. I'm also much more off balance the last couple weeks. First I thought it was due to my left ear being more painful, but now that pain is less intense and dizziness is still quite stepped up. Food quality seems quite important to my overall quality of energy right now too.

 
One of my doctors is ordering a specialty "MR study" (I'm guessing this includes and MRI and MRA, but even my regular neurologist is unclear about all that will done as my own sub-specialists is the only doctor in town that orders this specific protocol) sometime within the next few months.

 

I'm excited for them, but a little freaked out that my parents (my transportation) will be out of state for a few weeks for a missions trip. This, in conjunction with the whole driving question, really got me stressed and upset. I had a good cry, hugging my teddy bear hard, back in our bedroom tonight (again, without Rick - I think I record almost every time I cry, because crying not around Rick is still such a rare event and the need for tears has been building and un-satisfy-able for days!) and after a half hour of crying and praying, I feel SO much less stressed, emotionally cleared!


I did want to share an encouraging update on the church music situation. Leadership is really working with us and seeing what might be done from their end. They are still going to be trying different things and in the end, we have all agreed that they must do what they need to do to meet the community needs that God is calling them to address and we must do whatever God directs us as best for our family, but this past Sunday, when I took a preventative dose of pain medication before we went and their volume was much toned down was SO much better for me! The band has ordered some new equipment that we all pray might help the future situation too. I nearly cried in the church parking lot before we ever went in this week because I was so dreading facing this facet of the morning, then in turned out to be the best music time they have offered in many months. Praise God!!!


Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record? Psalm 56:8
 
 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Swirling

"Swirling" seems like a fitting title for today's post. That totally describes my thoughts, my emotions, after today's neurology appointment. I reserve the right to take back, change my mind, end at different conclusions, than anything I type here today while I'm still trying to process, but here's where I'm at right now. (Oh and "swirling" also works from the standpoint of going to bed last night and feeling my head swim as I changed directions and became vertical and remember thinking, "I am really tired of being so dizzy all the time!)


Today's appointment was rather routine, non eventful for the most part. I really like not being overly interesting to my doctor. Nice change of pace! What got my mind racing was when he signed the form to get my driver's license back, contingent on my ability to pass a physical driving test. The kicker is that I only have 30 days to have done this or the approval becomes null and void.


I always hoped I might be able to try to get my license back, "someday," but I figured I could put that off until I was good and ready. It's turning out that I can't have it both ways, being licensed again and waiting until I feel ready to actually use said authorization to put it to the test. Rick and I have to have a long, realistic talk about what I need to try to do here. My doctor recommends being screened by a driving school before heading down to DMV to take my official test. The big draw back there would be expense. So I picked up a new Driver's Handbook today and now have to make some decisions, all the while, my stomach churns and flip-flops worse than when I was a teenager!


The other thought swirling through my mind is that my doctor confirms it is likely time to seek a smaller, quieter church. Actually, his suggestion was that I stop trying to attend all together, due to the severity of current "brain irritability," but he gave his blessing on the quest to look for other options first. We are going to wait it out through this month and see how things go before we make any such decision, as we LOVE our church family and they have stood by us through all of this. He says the phenomenon I'm describing sounds rather like Plasticity (? - no, what's the word I'm looking for here? SPASTICITY, that's right!) in that it isn't a sign that my brain is "getting worse" it is just a progressive expression of the original injury. He could try an anti-seizure/convulsant medication that might or might not help a little, but since he knows how I hate meds and am typically so hyper-sensitive to all the side effects, we will just watch this latest development for now.


As for the MR(I?)(A?) that my neuro-ophthalmologist wants to order, he agrees that it is about time, but that my ophthalmologist has such unique protocol, he is going to let the other doctor place the orders to be sure he gets what he needs. Sounds like another phone call I need to make today.


Well, no conclusion from all of this, but I do feel a little calmer after getting it all written out, calm enough to have sorted my thoughts enough to be ready to pray, something that up to this point has just been a muddled mess of craziness today, but I know will bring me real peace as I sit at Jesus' feet and lay these questions before Him!


Tonight's pork in the crockpot is already smelling great! The bird's chirping like crazy - we both miss the kids who went back to school this morning. The laundry, we'll see how my Mom feels tomorrow, if she is up to coming over and helping me, but not really even going to try to tackle today even though that's the typical Monday routine. Today I have some phone calls to make (joy, joy! - sarcasm for those who have read here long enough to know how I loath talking on the telephone) and need to try to figure out how to get Skype onto my computer then learn to use it so I can have a way to still read lips when I try to make a business call soon. First, to take time and still myself before the Lord, or nothing else will come to pass today!

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Day 58 of 100
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.  Jonah 2:5-6
 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Music and MRIs


I have my regular check up with my neurologist at 8:30 tomorrow (Monday) morning. (The kids restart school tomorrow, so it will be a week of adjustment at our house!) Sometimes it just seems so surreal that this is my life now. I really had a stroke in my 30s? More than two years later I still have enough brain damage that they monitor me about every 3 months? *sigh* As a friend says, "Sometimes I just get really tired of not being normal!" I guess we will be talking about the necessity (or not) of another MRI soon. Should be an interesting morning.


I think I'm kind of past the medical community knowing what to do with me though, as I shouldn't have even survived and am well past the best medical expectation for my recovery. Did I tell you that last week my eyes measured at only 0.5 degrees of being un-sinked, down from 30 degrees when the neuro-othomologist first saw me 23 months ago (3 1/2 months after my initial strokes, when I had already seen much improvement)?


I have been able to brush out my hair 4 or 5 times, on my own, this past week, and get hair clips in my own hair twice as well! I'm going to look at my funds, then hope to buy this clip (affiliate link), in the style of clip I have been able to manage on my own, celebration:
https://secure.lillarose.biz/MemberToolsDotNet/ShoppingCartNew/ProductDetail.aspx?ProductID=19041&CatalogueID=204&PartyID=0&PartyGuestID=0&InternalUse=1&ProductGroupString=67.78&ReferringDealerID=816550

Today was really hard at church. The music is so neuro-stimulating that I can't even go/stay in the main sanctuary until morning music practice is over. Then, during service, the loudness literally makes the entire left side of my face physically hurt, I got nauseous enough that I wanted to throw up several times (I actually did throw up after I got home, but I think that was from a sudden rush of sugar since I hadn't had a soda for months and drank one at lunch today), and I sat there cringing through most of the worship time, physical sucking in a gasp of startling pain during one especially loud portion of one song.


Like last week, my arm didn't really hurt when I first got there, but was throbbing by the time service even started. This just from being around and trying to interact with so many people, I'm pretty sure. I even went and sat quietly on the bench for about 20 minutes before the service started, rather than trying to mingle and interact as I normally do, but still, all the commotion of multiple conversations and movement all around me was quite overwhelming. Our church doesn't offer an alternative, less noisy or less crowded service time, so we are giving this newest frustration until to the end of the month to settle down, then we will have to potentially face some tough decisions about where we will continue to attend. I'm thinking a very small congregation with a much quieter musical option is likely to become my only choice. This is so very, terribly heartbreaking to even consider! But as my husband says, none of our family can truly enter into a spirit of worship, knowing how stressed and in anguish I am the whole time. :( I have been hyper-sensitive to noise and light all afternoon since this morning's service!


I crossed paths with a woman I'm rather sure was another stroke survivor today at Sam's Club (an amazingly less noisy, active, or over-stimulating place than our own church). The first thing I noticed was the slightly imbalanced shape of her face. I didn't even consider it to be "drooping" but could just tell there was something not quite symmetrical going on there. Then I noticed she only used her right arm, for everything, while the left remained hanging limp at her side, fist curled into a tight ball. This was my biggest clue, actually. Next, I watched her walk. She walks more smoothly without a cane than I do than I do with, but upon active inspection, there is a slight limp as well. I watched her, from my wheelchair for a while, then she turned and looked at me, seemingly eyeing me up as well. I think we were just sizing each other up, slightly confused and a little doubtful about one another, then eventually realizing we likely shared a common bond. We never got to talk, there was just something comforting in the knowing a "secret" about one another and what we had each survived/endured, one that the casual observer might never guess.

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Day 57 of 100
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. - 2 Corinthians 13:14