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. Jenni remained hospitalized until 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.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thanks and Depression

Jennifer Saake, Oct. 25, 2014, 3 year after first two (of six over a month) catastrophic strokes.

A friend added this to my Facebook page on Saturday, saying, "In 3 days..in 3 years ..!!!".

I'm in a small group where one of the members posts a thankfulness thread ever day where we all list at least one or three (or more) things we are thankful for that morning. Here are mine from today:
Made it through a really nasty wave of depression yesterday, slept in an extra hour this morning, headed to the shower and thankful there will be a shower stool to hold me up.
Also thankful I got to do a really spur-of-the moment fun treat with my kids, last-moment yesterday and see utter joy on their faces. Top it off with picking up a bucket of chicken for dinner and getting to spend the evening with both of my parents, first time since Mom came home from the hospital! And we have figured out the complicated transportation schedule for my family this week since neither my mom nor I have driver's licenses now and the kids have an especially complicated week with one campus on half days and the other on full days.
My daughter insisted the fall decoration had to go up yesterday (she's been asking since early August
 ) and the house truly does look cozy this morning. 
Love the butterfly hiding in this picture!
So why depression? I'm just tired of my body being unreliable, for gains only to backtrack. I've been choking when I drink (or try to breathe and swallow my own spit) a LOT the past few day. Sunday I was really in a lot of extra pain too. So when I choked on a sip of warm tea badly enough to nearly need to leave the room, I was simply discouraged. I'm sure a little bit was post-"holiday" let-down too, being the day AFTER my stroke anniversary that I successfully built up well enough to not have more than a flicker of reflective sadness that morning. I really expected tears to start trickling down my face as I sat in class on Sunday, but of course they stubbornly refused to offer such relief.


I AM still making gains. Several times recently I've either intentionally or unintentionally, walked off without my cane, within the past 9 days, even a couple times in crowds, something that was still impossible to even fathom just a month ago! But there are also discouraging reminders that I'm still far from "normal," like the incredible dizziness that has been an issue off and on for the past week (especially this evening) or the trigeminal nerve and jaw and ear and neck pain that feels like the side of my face is trying to explode when I yawn. And hiccups...hard, loud, painful, unrelenting, 15-45 minutes at a time, several times this week. I'm guessing it is the sudden change in weather, the bitter cold mornings, that are upping my nerves and neuro system reactions this week?

Pretty much describes how I feel much of the time right now, as long as you add the words "With God" to the end of the first line.

Mom is home now and I would say about 99% mentally, 80% physically (stamina being the biggest issue). We are blessed she was given so much recovery SO FAST! She is currently without a driver's license either, so between 4 adults and transport needs of 3 kids, we have 2 driver's licenses. We are studying Gideon in Bible study and the day the doctor brought up the real possibility of seizure (automatic loss of license until you have been seizure-free for several months) the lesson was on how God whittled down Gideon's army from 1:4 odds to 1:450, to be clear that the battle was won ONLY in the power of the Lord. We were getting too confident, felt we had things in pretty good control being down just one license now, so being down two, we know this is only do-able with God!


For Kendra. Happy Fall!
Funny story on the decision making front. For nearly 3 years, my mom has been my primary driver, so when we went most anywhere, she was usually right there to help me work through whatever I needed. I have a hard time making decisions, but I didn't realize how bad (and how much she has helped me with this) until Dad drove us to KFC and we tried to order a bucket of fried chicken for dinner last night. I got overwhelmed with the menu and turned to her for suggestions. She just got home from a massive stroke-like event where, once she began to talk, a simple question like would she rather have peaches or pares for lunch was a crisis! So I looked to her for help with the menu and she stared back blankly and said, "You want ME to make a decision?" We had to call my dad over in order to choose what to order. Surprise!


Much better pictures of my butterfly cane.

Just because I'm a proud Mommy, quick update on my living miracles. On Saturday our 11-year-old princess took 1st place (perfect scores from all judges) in a local singing competition. Since one of the judges had been from the competition where she didn't even make it past the finals in a different competition over the summer, this really made her feel good! 

On Sunday, our oldest spent the afternoon at a college recruitment fair (already! sniff, sniff) with his Dad, while my parents and I made a last-minute choice to take the kids to a fun dress-up event in the parking lot of a local church. The pony rides were the highlight of the afternoon and oh the joy to see them have such a care-free time since Mommy is never spontaneous any more!!!

Our 3rd grader is just 2 1/2 chapters away from finishing his 5th grade level chapter book for this months book report. Not bad for someone who will still tell you he "can't read." :p



The rest of today's pictures are a tour of our Autumn and Thanksgiving decorations:





















 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Explaining

It's not my "birthday" here in the Pacific timezone for 4 more hours yet, but since I am already receiving a few sweet wishes, I thought I should go ahead and explain. Tomorrow is actually my "re-birthday," the day I "should" have died three years ago. The day God demonstrated He had better plans. The day my life started over from square one and I began the journey of re-learning to breath on my own, swallow, eat, see, hear, think logically, potty train, speak understandably, eventually walk, crawl, jump, run...
New butterfly cane I bought myself for my party. Sorry the picture is so dark!
I don't post my real birth date online for security reasons, but this irritated a few friends that I wouldn't list anything in the Facebook field, and so I recently decided that my re-birthday was more significant to me anyway, so it was a better date to publicly list.

To my sweet friends who are sending special wishes right now, my heartfelt thanks in both celebrating me through this significant milestone in my life and in letting me tuck your birthday thoughts away in my heart for that actual day. 

From my hubby. <3




 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mom's Home!

Yesterday, Mom posted:
I came home today. Four days in the hospital and a week in rehab. I'm very tired, but happy to be home. I graduated fro wheelchair to walker yesterday had a review from doctors and therapists, Passed cognitive and balance test and was sent home this afternoon. I am so thankful we figured out what triggered the seizure activity. and it is controlled! I cracked my skull about two weeks ago, slamming the door on our dodge van before I got myself totally inside. When the immovable force met that door something rocketed around. Any way I see my PCP tomorrow and my neurologist within a couple of weeks. Waiting for them to call me. One of my great pleasures of life is curtailed for awhile, (driving) But my God is sufficient.
Mom, Kathy, Kendra, Susan
I saw here briefly this afternoon. She had been out to the doctor. She looks great, but is weak and tires very easily. After this one brief outing, her color was dark, face pale, eyes puffy and she fell asleep during the brief (10 minutes) car ride from the doctor's office to home, so was headed for a nap! Going to take a while to really get her feet back under her, I'm sure!


I went to Bible study without Mom for the first time. We have another member of our very small group in a rehab hospital over in California right now! I came home and took a nap too. I think I'm still playing catch up from our hectic past couple of weeks too. I've only made it out of bed early enough to help get the kids out the door to school once all week.


I got a bit of vacuuming done this afternoon. I'm still not super steady on my feet and still can't do much more than one room at a time, but I was thinking back just to the first part of this year and how I simply did not have the balance to walk and push a machine like this AT ALL, and how today I can remember those emotions so vividly, yet cannot recreate a clear memory of the physical sensation of that particular limitation. Wow! Just wow!

 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Party Pics and Mom Progress

There's quite a story about today's first picture. It is a collaborate effort between several friends of mine: Gina who spotted the dark and perfectly formed shape of a butterfly in the storm clouds out her front door in Arizona (top, slightly to the left, wing spread and facing toward the right, NOT photo-shopped, just God's naturally occurring gift) so snapped this picture to share with our small (in)Courage Facebook group, Tanya in Mississippi, who simultaneously was sharing a reminder of some favorite song lyrics with the group, Anita, literally a world away in England, with her graphics skills, and my own brain storming from Nevada, to describe my idea for these combined elements. (Had other group members had a chance to chime in before we ran with our idea, I'm sure they would have too!) So here it is:

Photo Credit: © Gina M. Weeks, a personal friend

My mom's "stroke" (it sure was scary and stroke-like to witness!), a week ago Sunday, was determined to most likely be a hard hit to the head (NOT on my bistro table as that would have been on the wrong side of the head, but a more recent encounter with her van door that left her stunned and unable to drive for a few minutes),  triggering a big storm of seizures. She is nearly 72 and never had a seizure before. Hopefully this was a totally isolated incident. They have her on medication for the next month, to prevent ongoing issues. She'll likely loose her driver's license for a bit. She is regaining skill rapidly, already can fully (99%) talk and walking with a walker. Today they worked with a cane in therapy. She may be able to come home from the hospital as early as tomorrow, though this is not yet 100% confirmed. Thank you for all your prayers. UPDATE: She just called and IS scheduled to be discharged tomorrow afternoon!!! :D


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The next several pictures are decorations from my re-birthday party on Saturday. I should have more to share from the actual event itself, as I get pictures from other people, but here's a taste of decorations I snapped as I unpacked.


From my mom. Purchased just before her own hospital trip.
On the 25th of September I posted, "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...


From my sister-in-love.

The next day I wrote, "As for my coming re-birthday and thoughts on wanting a party, 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. :)"


Butterflies of every description were scattered all around the room, some from significant seasons in my life (one my hubby gave me in honor of one of our miscarried babies, one from friends from a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome benefit they invited me to several years ago, one sent to me with flowers after I got home from the hospital with my strokes) and several new one purchased just for this event.

Here I am, not three weeks after the initial idea (we had the party a week before my actual landmark on this upcoming Saturday, as this was the date that worked best for many involved), having successfully planned, shopped for, and executed my idea, and on a rather grand scale. Not bad for a "dead" person, I'm thinking! What a testament to God's grace.

Printed on favors: "Just as a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis with shriveled wings, little resemblance to the creature she once was just before her "nap," and must re-learn all the basics of survival as wings dry and plump and strengthen to prepare for flight, once this magnificent animal takes to the air, she discovers a whole new world, new possibilities, directly because of her metamorphosis.  She had to endure all stages from larva to rebirth as a new creature, and the beauty and strength she gained through the process. So this is stoke to me, taking someone who was truly living her life to the fullest before, but had no idea of her slug-like state and limitations, surviving the darkness of my season of immobility and confinement, and now spreading my wings, testing the winds, delighting in the warmth of the sun, and learning to see the world through new eyes." – Jenni Saake, 3-year multiple stroke survivor
www.StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com

 

When I came up with the concept of the party, I had no idea what it should look like, no idea how to pull this off. It is not like I had a guideline nor any pattern to follow. I just knew I wanted to say, God has kept me here and I'm ready to put the past behind me and embrace His direction for my future. (I can't help but repeat a "changing directions" picture here that speaks the same declaration to my heart, a rose stem that had been knocked over and crushed into the ground by a fallen trash can, yet eventually was beautifully blooming anyway.)


My mom and I realized a couple of weeks ago that she would not be able to make cake as her eye surgery (that she eventually could not get to, due to her hospitalization last week) became scheduled for just two days before my party. As a result, we ordered these beautiful cupcakes. I handled all the decisions with her only needing to drive me to accomplish the task:



We also went so I could pick out a fancy veggie tray. We got to talk to the lady working the deli counter and her father-in-law had a stroke about 15 years ago and is STILL bed-ridden and non-verbal. I just wanted to cry. Please pray for Anna and her FIL. It was very special to know that the hands that prepared my tray carried a loving and prayerful heart for me!


I ended up getting permission to host an open-house style party at the rehabilitation hospital where I lived in November and the first half of December, 2011 (and, ironically, where Mom is a patient right now too, though we never imagined this aspect while making plans). When asked why on earth I would want to hold a celebration of life there, I explained to friends that there were enough unhappy memories associated with that place, I needed to make some bring, new, joyful ones! It ended up feeling so great to tell all the staff who attended, "See, you usually only see people at their worst, but what you are doing really makes a difference. Keep doing what you are doing. Thank you. This is what three years later can look like.


From cupcakes eaten and name tags used, we had at least 40 folks come through over a little less than 2 hours, possibly closer to 50 or even 60 (a lot did not eat a cupcake and some never made name badges). A few friends I hadn't seen since just after my strokes and even a couple I have stayed friends with via Facebook for years but haven't seen for 10 years or so! My most exciting/surprising visit came when the surgeon who saved my life showed up, along with his nurse practitioner. I was very thankful to touch base with another current patient who went in for a routine surgery two months ago and hasn't gone home since. E. has two very young children and my mom says she has so many of the same struggles I did at that stage. I really feel she is why I was really there this past weekend!


The hospital had a professional photographer come for about 20 minutes (I don't know if/when I will see how many of those pictures). I am also talking with hospital publicity and likely will be working with them to become a local public face for stroke awareness. I'll wait to share more details once things are ready to be made public.

Even more butterflies, many of them sent by friends. I got to use all of them on Saturday. (My mom still has the butterfly you gave me Kathy, so I'm sorry it didn't make it into this picture!) Kendra, our delivery got here today too. Thank you!!!


The only detail I overlooked in party planning (my mom was again my driver and gave some sounding board input as I selected all the decorations and supplies a couple weeks back) was forgetting to plan either lunch or dinner for my immediate family on Saturday. I had everything planned out and timed well so I had almost everything ready on Friday and only had make fresh smoothies for breakfast, cut fresh roses, make guacamole and get dressed on Saturday. Then our 8-year-old asked, "What's for lunch?" and I realized this hadn't even crossed my mind. Rick came to my rescue and put his own diet restrictions (that I had so carefully planned into my party menu!) on hold to pick up fast food for everyone. The only other near flub is when my mom asked what I planned about napkins, plates or cups and I realized they weren't in my mental shopping list a couple of weeks back.


I watched a documentary on the mechanics of human running last night. My main take-away is that slow and marathon or sprint runner typically average nearly the same stride length and time in the air between steps, but speed itself seems to be dictated by how much pressure they force through their steps, thus producing upward spring and forward thrust. I'm trying to apply this principle to my own walking. So far, I don't know that I have gained any speed, but my right hip is less sore than when I woke up this morning (bad pain night and quite unhappy this morning), I'm guessing because it is not taking its typical abuse of my imbalanced gait, but my left leg is SORE, protesting the higher impact demanded of it much of the day. My alkalies tendon has been giving me fits for a week, especially at rest (or when I over stretch it), so tonight will be interesting.

One of my favorite quotes ever. Typically attributed to Lincoln.

Photo Credit: © Gina M. Weeks