Update: Stroke of Grace has become In Darkness Sing and has moved to JenniferSaake.com.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder, Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes via vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office, including brain stem and cerebellum bleeds, in Oct. 2011. Jenni remained hospitalized for nearly 2 months and was not expected to live (near death experience) nor recover, but if she even survived, she was slated to live out her days in a nursing home or, best case, to maybe come home but wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care. At 5 years, 7 months God showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jenni is currently writing more books and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. 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.

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.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer End

Harsh pruning a few weeks ago has brought an amazing harvest now!
Today is the last weekday of summer school break. My garden creek got mostly done this summer but is not quite finished. My bedroom is no where near as restored as I hoped it would be by this point. But, we did get through 5 of a 6-book series I  read aloud to my kids all summer and had some great memories. And we even got through the whole summer with no major injuries, for the first summer in 4 years! Come Monday, we start a new school year.

The past few weeks have been full of surprising, sometimes sobering, sometimes amazed profound moments of realization about my reality:

A couple of weeks ago, as I was lagging behind my family and struggling to stay caught up, it nearly brought me to tears, the breath-taking realization that I WAS PUSHING A SHOPPING CART, BY MYSELF, IN A STRAIGHT LINE! 
Slow? Yes. But doing it, none-the-less! My mind flashed back to multiple days at the rehab hospital when I attempted laps and laps around the gym, unable to even moderately control a shopping cart half that size, weaving irradically, in wide arches, crashing into and bumping off of anything and everything in sight.

Maybe I wasn't breaking any speed records this day out in public, with my family, but the simple strength required to keep myself upright while both propelling AND controlling the movements of our family's shopping trip cart, nearly did me in with awe, pure wonder!

A couple of days later I was caught by equal surprise, this time in frustration, that, after nearly 4 years, I still could not take 3 steps in a standard sandal without it flinging off my paralyzed foot and simultaneously sliding and turning that ankle. Sometimes I simply forget that I am still "disabled" or have physical (or mental) limitations that were not there for nearly 30 years of my life. Being confronted by the raw reality of limitations I have honestly forgotten existed, is like a sudden splash of ice water in the face, leaving me gasping and striving to align my thoughts and circumstances!

At least my dreams have generally integrated my new reality now, as it was agonizing to constantly be jolted between pre- and post-stroke existences upon waking each morning, in those earliest day, weeks, months and even years when my sub-conscious was still scrambling to adjust my self-perception to account for my new realities.

Eating, or more specifically, chewing quickly and efficiently then swallowing, continues to offer regular moments of surprise and frustration. If I have a bite of food in my mouth when I think of something I want to say, it seems to be an agonizingly slow process to clear my mouth. Think of a time when you have JUST taken a large bite and the waitress drops by to quickly check if everything is OK on her way back to the kitchen, but it is not OK, and you need to ask her for more napkins, or your meat to be more fully cooked or her to deliver the side dish that is still missing from your order. You can gesture and she might guess you need a drink refill, but the more advanced requests leave you both scrambling for you to finish your bite in order to more clearly communicate. Amplify that situation by about 10 (because I am now such a slow chewer, only use half of my mouth and have a very poor swallow reflex), then make this nearly a nightly scenario, for years on end, sometimes 2 or 3 times in a single meal.

Remember that if you try to rush you might bite or otherwise hurt yourself (maybe painfully trigger your trigeminal nerve into at utterly debilitatingly painful TN attack) and that if you try to force yourself to swallow, in what your body deems to be a premature fashion, you will choke, get food uncomfortably stuck somewhere between your lips and tummy, and/or only get part of the mission accomplished anyway and end up attempting to talk with mouth still filled with partially chewed food anyway.  Now add in short term memory issues to the mix and know that if you don't say what you are thinking RIGHT NOW you likely won't be able to say it at all. And did I mention that the stress of this urgent combination BOTH slow/prolongs the chew/swallow process AND memory capability? So above all, never rush, panic or feel flustered or frustrated or the whole thing becomes much, much harder!

So, in order to try to compensate for all this, the talking (or pathetically attempting to talk) with my mouth full is a bad habit I frequently fall into. This drives Rick crazy! He works very patiently with me to try to avoid these situations, but when I (regularly) grow impatient with myself and just want to talk normally over our dinner, he CANNOT understand me, try as he might. Then there is the whole lack of manners thing too... The other night he gently stopped me and asked me to finish my bite then try again and I rolled my eyes and shot out a look of exasperation, then we had to have a whole talk about how my frustration was not intended towards him, that it was an aggravating situation, but how I need to work on learning how to express my irritation at stroke issues without making another person feel like they are the target of my wrath. :( Stroke, the gift that keeps on giving. *sigh*

A friend's new gate.
Speaking of gift that keeps on giving, it seems that our years of infertility (or at least the physical conditions that contributed to that decade of sorrow and frustration) are not yet fully played out.  If you have been following this blog for a bit, you likely know that I have been facing significant abdominal pain off and on since late March, sometimes vomiting, have seen multiple doctors, had extensive testing and even taken a couple emergency room trips over this. The current consensus is that my remaining ovary (on the left, my more profoundly stroked side) is fostering a very small cyst that should not be big enough to be causing all this trouble, but because of stroke issues, seems to be referring and magnifying pain into the right (missing, since my partial hysterectomy nearly 7 years back) ovarian area. Since my left kidney stone a year and a half ago initially and primarily demonstrated with right kidney pain, this seems to be a viable theory! In addition, it is highly suspected that I have Endometriosis regrowth throughout my abdominal cavity, including on my appendix, thus the generally cyclic waves of lower right quadrant pain, a chronic, low-grade appendicitis. On September 11 (first mutual opening between the hospital Da Vinci operating robot, my gynecologist and general surgeon), presuming I can make it that long without an acute episode that requires more immediate, emergency intervention, I will be having my "second hysterectomy" (finish the job we started 6 1/2 years ago and enter full menopause) and an appendectomy.

My arm and shoulder hurt enough to remind me they are still not as strong as I think they are BUT I didn't even half to prop my arm up this time!
Back to the good news stuff, I got to hold a baby this week!

Here;s what my precious friend posted with her picture. "Jenni is one amazing woman. One day a few years ago, she went to the chiropractor for an adjustment and as he incorrectly adjusted her neck, she had a chiro induced stroke. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and proceeded to have several more strokes over the coming weeks. She has had to relearn how to walk, eat, talk. She is my hero. Bean is only the 3rd baby she's held since her stroke and it was such a blessing to see her holding my baby girl"

Jenni Saake Stephanie B., Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe (Nevada Side), August 2015.
Obviously, the baby didn't come by herself. My dear friend and pre-stroke neighbor, Stephanie B., met us for a visit at Lake Tahoe (a little under an hour from our house, my parents and I were already planning a day up there with the kids anyway) on Wednesday. Stephanie and I picked up right where we left off. Time, distance, 2 moves and 6 strokes just didn't matter. Blessing! Wow, do I miss her more than ever now though! And I GOT TO HOLD HER BABY! 14 months old! Conceived and born since we were last together. Children and animals are skiddish of me since the strokes, but "Bean" came right to me and I held her a good little while! Stephanie just so naturally treated me exactly like she always has, while simply stepping in to accomodate stroke needs (like I had never tried walking in sand with a walker or cane until this week and when I struggled, without hesitation or seeming complex though, she pulled the front of my walker or offered me her arm without skipping a beat in conversation or acting like it was any kind of unique situation). So refreshing. I don't think anyonr but my mom and Kathy have been so natural about being around the "new me" as Stephanie seemed to be!

What we spotted on our way up to the Lake. That 6 foot+ tall guy in my 15-year-old who was only 4 pounds, 13 ounces at birth! Also pictured are my mom and our youngest. :)

From Facebook this week: I get people all confused over my birthday! Yes, the date I was born just passed, and I was SPOILED by my family, celebrated and SO BLESSED. A few of you know that actual date, but generally that is not the "public" birthday I "advertise". Yes, the date FaceBook recognizes (and is likely to remind you about) will be coming up on October 25, the anniversary of my first two strokes, the date our entire family was shaken to the core, our lives started over and I had to learn to breathe, swallow, eat, potty train, walk, think and try to figure out emotions (still have a way to go on that one!) all over again, my "re-birthday". I will be "turning 4" this fall. Here are some pictures from the day my family just celebrated:

Mom and our girl made me an incredible "triple moist" chocolate cake with raspberry filling and fresh raspberries on top!
My new prayer journal, <3
Amazing and delicious breakfast in bed!
Totally designed and prepared by my girl, who even fully cleaned up her own mess afterward!!!

It was delicious!
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And was served with my very favorite kind of gift, a homemade card from one of my long-awaited miracle babies! <3
Did I tell you she won grand prize, a year worth of free singing and acting lessons, in a talent contest one week before my birthday? Amazing girl! What a blessing from God. :)

Later on my birthday she also made me lunch!


And the next morning, a butterfly caught her!

My birthday watch

My hubby got my a portable walker (rollator) I can take in the car (been wanting for years), I walk so much better with this than a cane in most circumstances! I'm SO excited!
And this great little gadget, a handle that lets me safely and more easily get in and out of cars! 


  1. I am so very proud of you sis of my heart. sending you love, hugs, and many prayers.

  2. I've been looking at that Walker too!

    Much joy to you!