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...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

So Sleepy!

video


Update after I posted this morning's video: "Slept for over 3 hour this afternoon (well, technically, started in the morning). Groggy and still tired, but at least functional in time for kids to come home from school!"

Friday, September 26, 2014

More 35 Month Life Experiences

I just posted last night, then updated with this picture this morning: 

My rose garden, after about 8-10 man hours of labor (mine and Kathy's, over a couple of weeks, but mostly this past Wednesday),
See the "Saake Swamp" or our "bog" on the left, running the depth of the garden from the fence clear out to the front edge of the garden? That was a solid forest of weeds, cat tails, willow bushes, aspen volunteers, that come every single year! Some day I would love to be able to cement that in, creating an actual drainage ditch, and rock it over the cement, to create a pleasant little creek to meander through the roses.
But I kept thinking of more things I should have said last night, thus I need to just post a whole nother post! (Of course, now I can't think of most of the things I wanted to say, but here of a bunch of pictures, ending with this week's shots of my garden.)

The two things I do remember than I want to add is that it really hit me, overwhelmed me, yesterday morning to be standing (that alone is a miracle!) in my kitchen, capable of making an entire meal without any help, not only for my own family, but for another too. Stirring, balance involved, organizational skil to think though each stage of the tasks at hand, ability to carry such tasks out! Just WOW! Thank you to ALL who fed our family for all those months when I could manage none of this. How very amazing to get the chance to do something similar for another. I don't even have the words...
A recent going away party for a friend. I was out until 10:30 at night. Still in awe that I can do anything of the sort! (I'm on the far right, the one (of course!) with the cane. I love the tiny little butterfly purse Rick found for me at the thrift store - just the right dimensions to carry my handicapped placard, Epi pen, emergency medicines, wallet and keys, but not so big that it throws me off balance or I struggle to carry it on my own. Rick was getting tired of ending up carrying my purse everywhere because it never matched his shoes. ;) )
As for my coming re-birthday and thoughts on wanting a party (see prior post), this would be my third re-birthday and we would be celebrating all the things you celebrate with a 3-year-old over their lifetime achievements, learning to speak more clearly, crawl, walk, run, count, basic addition and subtraction, write legibly enough for someone else to read without too much struggle, learn enough voice control to sing, not at an adult level yet, but progressing that way. I'm almost three years into this re-learning the basics thing and I guess right on track. :)

Northern Nevada sky, out my front door. My roses are not shown in this picture, but located just to the right, past our van you see in the lower right corner. I was trying to catch the morning light on the foothills that were all aglow, under a layer of California-fire-smoke and our own clouds,, but the light was fading away by the time I got the camera turned on my phone. Wild horses visit our street on a near-daily basis. Breathtaking!
This picture is for Julie. The bistro table I've been looking for for years (since pre-stroke) that I finally found at a thrift store last week, for half of the price I had determined I would be willing to pay! The chair I bought new, but at an end-of-season clearance, for 70% off, so I still came in about $15 less than I had set aside. So this is officially my birthday gift from my in-laws now, as they had given me money this summer to buy whatever I wanted . :) Oh, and the little metal rose basket was just $2, from the thrift store as well. Thanks Mom and Dad. I'm so pleased!!


I know it is only September, but here's my Christmas present from my amazing hubby. I had a cast-iron pan before my strokes. It was one f my favorite pieces of cookware. It somehow got misplaced while I was out of commission and I have so missed it! Realistically, I wouldn't have had the strength to lift it anyway, but there were just some recipes that didn't work out well without cast iron. I've always used hand-me-downs and refurbished pans, but now I have a brand new one of my very own. And it even has a wonderful little removable silicone sleeve that fits securely onto the handle so I won't burn myself. I'm just giddy. Thank you, my (cast) "Iron Man".

Welcome to our home. I'm still having fun with my camera phone! He's our front door. 

And here's what you would see when you came inside, our very first wedding present.
This week's roses on my kitchen table (not as fresh as they looked yesterday, but still bringing me joy).
The sign from Abby that got me through those days in the hospital.
Butterflies from Kendra.
My "changing direction" bountiful rose branch, Kathy. From Jenni's Theological Gardens. ;)
 

 
 
 
 
 

 



Thursday, September 25, 2014

35 Months



2 years, 11 months ago, today, I had my first two strokes. (Also see More Thoughts at 35 Months once you finish this post.)


My favorite new quote. "Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods." - CS Lewis
With a friend's help, and legs shaking, I got a ton done in my rose garden yesterday, straightened the garage (Kathy did most of that, but I helped a little), and still had the energy to make a meal to take to a friend this morning, go to Bible study with my mom, and help in our youngest son's classroom this afternoon! I'm pretty tired, but surprisingly not dead on my feet. Tomorrow morning is water therapy and I think I'll make it. TAKE THAT "never walk again" doctors. And with chronic illness for nearly 2 1/2 decades BEFORE the strokes (90% in remission and holding), this is totally NEW territory for me. Wow God!
Gardening in progress.
Here's what I posted to my chronic illness group's praise/thankfulness list yesterday:
Today was a Kathy day. My garden (about a dozen rose bushes, with a literal swamp and all the accompanying water-loving plants like willows and cat tails and more kinds of weeds than I can name!) running right through the middle of it all, has been mostly weeded today and all but three bushes pruned! There were dozens of volunteer trees growing in there, several higher than I am tall, and we got them ALL out! We even reorganize the garage a bit, making it much safer and more spacious for me to get through! I don't know how I would manage if God hadn't put this woman, her dear sisterhood, listening ear, kind counsel and utter physical ability in my life!


After about 8-10 man hours of labor (mine and Kathy's, over a couple of weeks),
See the "Saake Swamp" on the left? That was a solid forest of weeds, cat tails, willow bushes, aspen volunteers!

As my friend Maureen put it, "Life is different, but it is good - yes?" Yes. I never, ever, thought I would get to the point of believing this again, but yes!


Jennifer Saake, almost 35 months post-stroke. (Sorry it is a bit blurry!)
I'm trying to figure out exactly how to observe the landmark of next month. I am thinking I very much want to hold a pink and teal, butterfly-themed, re-birthday party. I first got the idea of turning "observation" into "celebration" via Joni Erikson Tada's story of how they have crab cakes each year to observe the day she nearly drowned in a diving accident that severed her spinal cord, but a crab pinched her sister's toe and caused her to turn around and spot Joni's motionless body floating face-down in the water, in time to pull her out! The "re-birthday" part comes from a term some of my strokie friends use to describe their stroke-a-verseries, a term that at first was rather upsetting to me, but I have fully embraced for a while now. My party idea would be much like a regular birthday party, cake and all, to celebrate God's grace through the journey and mark this drastically life-altering day. My mom's on board to make my cake, now I need to run the idea by my hubby...




Today, I'm thankful that I got to sit at my new (to-me) bistro table in my rose garden for about 5 minutes this morning and watch wild horses eating our lawn just yards away!



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Retiring and Renewing


No, I'm not retiring from blogging! I'm just ready to retire some items. My "Failure is NOT an Option" hat that has served well as my pool hat for a year or more now, was already a broken-in hand-me-down when I started using it. It captures my determination well, as Kathy recently put it, "With God and Jenni, nothing is impossible!" But that hat is literally falling apart and the Velcro back keeps catching on, tangling with and badly pulling my long (Yeah! Growing!) hair.


Saturday, my mom and I found a couple of new pool hat options for me at over 70% off! I have an all-white one with cute flower and blue with white poke-a-dots now. :) I had thought about designing my own to say something like, "SURVIVOR" on one line and "6 strokes, age 39" on the next, then maybe "StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com" under that, but both VistaPrint and CafePress only give me Velcro closure options and would be around $20. Since I paid less than $4 for each of what I just bought and the back styles don't pull my hair, I dropped that idea for now.

Not looking at the camera because my vision is still quite doubled to turn my head to the side and move my eyes to look straight in front of me! Still dizzy from that attempt, but at least you can see my new pool hat. :)
Clear back to my hospital days, I was dealing with so much very intense, non-optional, sudden and total change and loss of control in so many areas at one, that I scrambled to claw to grasp on to any sameness I could achieve on any level. I do not believe my experience was unique, for my neighbor in the rehab hospital had her house on the market when she stroked and refused to let the house continue to be shown in her absence, stating, "Don't let anyone touch my things! Don't let strangers see or walk through my house!"

For me, a crisis issue was Tupperware. Yes, plastic storage dishes! It wasn't until toward the end of my rehabilitation stay that I began to grasp that many friends and family members had been working hard on my behalf, for weeks, to be sure that I came home to a safe, clear, orderly, adapted home environment. I remember blurting out to my husband, "Just don't let anyone touch my Tupperware cabinet!" little knowing that it had already been completely overhauled weeks prior. (I still wonder why this was the one issue that really stood out to me, but for whatever reason, it was.)

We rolled in the door upon discharge and my husband proudly wheeled me around the house opening drawers, cabinets, closets and showing off many of the changes that had been worked in our home over past weeks. I was livid, left utterly violated and betrayed. All the love and effort poured out on my behalf was seen as more uninvited change heaped upon my already-shattered heart, threatening to suffocate me with my own lack of sameness. The home I had longed for, dreamed of, craved, no longer felt as mine, safe, welcoming. I know now that everything accomplished was intended as blessing, but at the time when I was so frail and frightened, the changes seemed overwhelmingly daunting!

Yesterday
So back to the Tupperware cabinet. Several months (a year or more???) ago, Kathy helped me drag everything out, rearrange it to my satisfaction, then label every shelf, in hopes of keeping it orderly and usable under my new challenges, then finally feel like it was my own reclaimed property again. That didn't work out so well.

This morning.
Don't get me wrong, it did help for a while, especially with the emotional side of the issue, but I can't reach or climb to higher shelves and apparently my children don't read labels well. By this summer, it was risky to even open that cabinet and risk an avalanche of plastic. I've gradually been desiring to use less and less plastic in our food storage and preparation anyway, so last week I decided to transform my "Tupperware cabinet" and start dragging out old glass and ceramic pieces that were inaccessibly stuffed into other cabinets. On Saturday I bought new storage/mixing/heating bowls and am currently taking a break from reorganizing to write this post...

Work in progress...
Several hours later, I'm back to show you what I've accomplished:

Tada! Everything is orderly, the stuff I use most is much more accessible, much plastic is replaced with glass and everything is clearly labeled right on the cabinet, so we have reasonable hope of keeping it pretty much this way! Several items I haven't been able to use at all or store well, now fit too, since I filled up an entire cardboard box to give away.
I'm so excited!
I thought the lighting on a kitchen chair was amazing one morning this week.

As you may be able to guess by now, from all the photos I'm snapping, I got a new cell phone, a special slide out keypad model that I'm learning to text with a bit and is actually a little easier for me to hear and see on than our home phone. It is great for staying in contact with my many doctors and immediate family, though I am still not a happy phone "chatter" anymore. What excites me the most is that I now have a camera I can use without having to drag my laptop around for the webcam (and it takes mirror image photos anyway, so written words, the direction I hold anything, etc. comes out backwards) and I am so proud of myself for learning how to upload the pictures from my camera onto my computer, something I never could figure out with my old phone! Here are my first couple of pictures:

 


And a "selfie."

The weed-overgrown garden Kathy and I worked towards reclaiming (a few hours and 4 large trash can worth) on Wednesday.


My first roses I have managed to salvage into a bouquet in three years! This made me SO happy!!!!


Kathy, I had planned to send the bouquet home with you on Wednesday, but I was so excited to have my very own roses on my table that I just couldn't bring myself to offer this first batch. Thank you for helping prune my garden and bring them in!

 

Typical state of my "nest."


I spent 13 hours cleaning it up and reorganizing my chair corner this weekend. Now it looks like:


I love bears and roses, so a friend had a flower pot specially designed just for me, several years back. Fun to practice shooting photos on!


And more pictures, just for the fun of playing with my new toy:

   

And some pretties from our girl:

   

Praise! I had another hearing test yesterday. My left ear is up from virtual deafness to nearly 75% potential in the lower sound ranges! It does still drop off significantly with higher tones, but I can actually hear about 3 out of every 4 words spoken in a male tone with that ear now!

Our marriage has been one constant STRESS for 3 years straight (though really, for nearly 20 years of chronic illness before that too, just not at this level of intensity). My counselor's goal is that we are to strive to reclaim that marriage can be fun and joyful, not just a thing to be endured. This morning was great. Praying for not only continued endurance, but more and more fruit from the endurance thus far! Yesterday was our 265th month-o-versary. Satan may come to steel, kill and destroy, but Jesus, the Overcomer, is STILL winning this battle!
May the Lord lead you into a greater understanding of God's love and the endurance that is given by Christ. - 2 Thessalonians 3:5 GNT