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.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

We Made It to December! (and why I've taken up swearing)

Mental and creative energy has primarily been poured into my 30DayOfThanks pictures and memories (a few intense stroke-related stories shared in the mix) over on my InfertilityMom blog last month. Happy December! Time to get back on track over here!

Before I forget, allow me to share a great stroke progress story from last month. Our daughter had been quite sick, so strokie-me, by myself, needed to climb up to her top bunk to change soiled sheets. It took me a long time, and as many muscle group simply do not move well, I'm uncoordinated and unbalanced, plus I'm on blood thinners, I watched several new bruises literally appear right before my eyes...

I gradually coached my way through what needed to be done by repeating the same phrase that I've told myself in every challenging situation for the past four years, "This is great therapy!" After a couple dozen cheers along these lines, while struggling to wrestle the third corner of a fitted sheet onto the too-heavy mattress, obtaining two new ouchy foot bruises in the process of trying to brace my body against the strain, I let go of the sheet, sat up straight and thought, "Wait! This isn't therapy. This is real life! This is why I do therapy!

No, the change in perspective did not make the task at hand any less challenging or allow me to accomplish my task any more quickly (though I DID accomplish it - thank you very much!), but it did bring a huge smile to my heart to see some real-life fruit from all I've battled to reclaim. I'm a REAL MOM and ever-so-thankful!!! (Three times over, first in the infertility battle to get these kids here, then in even surviving stroke to stay alive for them, and now in the physical ability to mother them in practical needs!)

It hit me the other day that I have undergone 6 major surgeries (local anesthesia, hospital or surgery center, recovery room, IV, etc) within less than 4 years. Lost of more minor surgeries/in-office local anesthesia stuff too - actually more scopes and scans and biopsy invasive stuff than I can list... But as far as the big stuff, we have the two arterial stenting surgeries on Thanksgiving Day, 2011, followed six months later by the stent check procedure needed to be sure I was healing correctly, a full day surgery-center event carrying its own risk of further stroking, then a major surgery each year since - ear, then kidney stone, then endometriosis/hysterectomy/appendix. At least the inability to move a stone on my own and ear paralysis were both directly stroke-related. Who knows what stroke paralysis may or may not have contributed to this last round of internal organ dysfunction. Anyway, I'm tired and want my body to quit randomly giving up on me. As my youngest will tell you, "Mommy has given away half of her internal organs now!" Not really, Buddy, but some days it feels like that!!!

Between the enactment of "affordable health care" (umm, how is $10,000 out of pocket each year, before insurance helps, "affordable"? - yes very thankful that we have insurance at all and that it does kick in above that amount, just exhausted from the stress of maxing out every single year for five in a row now, and depleting my husband's life earnings/savings) that starting impacting our family shortly after my strokes, my injuring doctor neglecting to carry insurance then leaving the country before he was court-ordered to personally assist in expenses incurred, and these ongoing yearly exceptional needs (this isn't even counting therapies, regular health care or other family medical needs), I've been a terrible drain on my family. In these moments of realization, it is easy to question, "Now why exactly did you keep me here God? To stress and bankrupt those I most love?" I'm striving to recognize those hear-rending thoughts for the lies they are, but it is a battle some days.

With all these surgeries and recoveries I have lost the hard fought abilities to jump or run I excitedly showed off last year. :( I guess, if you don't use it, you loose it!

If I really push myself in the pool I can still accomplish an agonizingly slow run in the water. (Interestingly, my brain CANNOT master how to run in place. I guess if I'm not moving forward, I'm not actually running?) Jumping in the water, thankfully, still comes rather easily. I've found myself, on several occasions of late, attempting to do something without result and facing momentary confusion because I know I have mastered the needed skill, then realizing that I can, in fact, preform that act, but only in the low-gravity environment of water! 

As for the same tasks on dry land, this is when I realize my existing deficits more profoundly. :( I really hate the physical sensation of climbing up out of a swimming pool. Not only is there the reality that everything is going to be 10x harder on my body now, but there is an incredibly weighty "pull" sensation on every muscle as I pull my body, hand-over-hand up the grab bar, up those steps. Last week, in one of those pool assention moments, I coined my own curse phrase, "Oh Gravity!" 

I truly am thankful for God's creation of gravity, as it holds my feet to the floor (remember when I had to walk around with ten pound weights strapped to each leg just to tell my brain my place in  space?) and enables me to walk in this way. One of my biggest pool frustrations is that I must move to shallow water (where my upper body does not like to be) in order to do any exercise where I must "plant my feet," because they will float off the bottom of the pool otherwise.

On a lighter note, I once read a research study showing how swearing helped cope with pain better than any other method in that study. I use payer, then medication when needed, for my pain. But "Oh Gravity!" does have a nice stress relief effect on me! Figured I will occasionally add this curse to my arsenal of coping mechanisms. I can see it working as a pool climb out phrase, as well as a frustration vent when I drop something and know the shattering impact of gravity to glass shattered around my feet! I think, if not overused, this is a healthy addition to my stress/pain management tool box. I have prayed and believe this is still a God-honoring use of my breath. So when you here "Gravity!" exclaimed in disgust from my lips, please know I am not discounting a gift the Lord has given, just seeking to cope within the limitations to my body!

We were at my in-laws farm for Thanksgiving. I brought bubbles to do a fun experiment on what happens to bubbles when the temperature is freezing (can take the kids out of the homeschool, can't take the teacher out of the mama). The adults had way more fun with the activity than the kids even did, so I wanted my camera from the house to take some discrete shots of the memories. There are steps into both doors of their house. No hand rails. No way for me to slip inside unnoticed or even unaided. "Oh Gravity!" I enlisted our youngest to go get my camera for me, but that broke the spontaneity of the moment and fun had to be posed. It is the little losses that sometimes grieve me most deeply!

I had another first yesterday, not just a post-stroke first but a lifetime first!!! Rick brought home a 22 pound turkey on sale. Having spent almost all holidays with one side of our family or the other, I have never yet cooked a full-sized turkey all by myself. I've served just breasts alone, or even had turkeys cooked in my oven, but always when Rick or my parents were there to help. Yesterday, I had a thawed turkey sitting in cold water in my mud sick (mud sink -another thing I am thankful for!) and no one around to help me with it. So I went into the garage and rummaged around to find my mom's old electric roaster, set it up in the laundry room (so thankful for clean counter space in there, Kathy!), drained the sink, cut open the wrapper, washed the bird right there, followed all the directions to season him up, prayer hard, braced my feet, then lifted the big bird vertically up out of the sink and over the few inches into my roaster. Had to wrestle him for 5 minutes to get him settled down into the pan correctly, no way I could have carried him to an oven or gotten him into one of those poultry roasting bags, but I did manage the electric roaster. Checked and based him through the afternoon (wow does our house smell good, even today!), make wheat-free gravy with the pan drippings when Rick got home and lifted him out for dinner. We had Thanksgiving left over cranberries and I baked some potatoes in the oven. I should have taken a picture! The turkey was perfectly done and not dried out. I was so excited and proud of myself for pulling off that meal! Thank you for the starting point, Rick. (Some people pray, "Give us this day or daily bread..." I pray, "Thank you for more than abundantly providing daily food for our family. Give me this day my daily meal plan!" I am always seeking God for each day's healthy meal choices to prepare for my family and love it when something comes together this nicely!)

I need to get off this blog and on to some serious book writing again! This process is SO SLOW this time around, but I am making a little forward progress each week again. Your continued prayers are so treasured!

Here's my manuscript as of today:

As we enter this season of Advent (and every day!), I leaver you with this memory:

Oh, Kendra, I know our hormones got messed up in different ways. What works for one does not always work for another! But for what it is worth, no wheat (avoid hidden sources like gravy made with flour) and lots of chia (we have Rick to thank for this amazing discovery!) seeds (yes, like what grows "hair" on a piece of pottery!) is really helping with intestinal paralysis and bowl regularity for me! And I've lost 13 pounds (we'll see if it stays off, since I keep loosing and regaining the same 20!) since mid September!

Another look at my book.


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