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.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Body Surprises

“Does it hurt right here?”

“No? Even a little bit?”

“What about here?”


“Is this tender?”


My CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an unrelated neuro-immune condition I’ve battled for well over 2 ½ decades) doctor was befuddled. 

He was looking at my neck, throat, glands from behind my ears and to my upper chest.  He was afraid he was seeing new inflammation, signs of immune system gone array in yet another new area. “You are visibly ‘fuller’ on the left side. It must be the strokes!”

Fuller. Interesting.

This is my left side. It is a mirror image!

To my medically untrained eye, I don’t see it. At least not there.

For years now I’ve been able to tell you that my left-side abdominal muscles are measurably weaker, lacking in tone, than the right. I suck my tummy in and the left side still bulges a good inch past the right.

Speaking of tummy, look!
It has taken years of effort, but for the first time in over 4 years (with the brief exception of the time I quickly transitioned from hospital "Underweight" to post-stroke sedentary life and new metabolism "Overweight"), I am finally back  to near the healthy weight I had just reached prior to my strokes!
I could loose nearly 30  more pounds and still be considered medically "Normal," however my high end weight loss goal in only about 6 pounds away now! I do not care to loose any more than about 15 pounds more, maximum.

All I could have told you about my left shoulder area is that it is rarely sore now, at least not that intense pain of the early years (thank You, God!), however, I know it still does not act quite like it should, because no matter how hard I tighten a bra strap or swim suit down on the left side, even to the point of leaving a deep red groove in my skin, I having to push the straps back into position, dozens of times per day.

While I think it might be a lack of tone issue that my doctor was observing in my left very upper torso this past week, my husband thinks I’ve actually developed unusual extra muscle there, simply by constantly frightening to hold my arm in place!

On a somewhat related note, I had a bone density scan this week. The difference is still fairly subtle at this stage, but at not even a full 5 years since my strokes, there is already a slightly measurable difference in the density of bones on the two sides of my body, with my left being at a little more risk of future fractures than the right. Overall, my risk measures at quite low levels, even for the weaker side. Not a huge finding, but yet one more marker of the perpetually gift-that-keeps-on-giving nature of my strokes.

(Other interesting findings from that day include a continued unawareness on my body's "place in space" - I thought I was lying very straight on the table and had already re-adjusted once to straighten my body when the nurse told me I was crooked and needed to scoot my hips and turn my neck a good bit in order to straighten my spine -as well as an interesting observation of how my left lung now possibly has reduced capacity.)

I can no longer run or jump outside of the pool. (I can still, very unsteadily, get onto my tiptoes if I must, as long as I have something to hold onto for balance.) If I worked it real hard and practiced daily again, I’m pretty sure I could remaster (or at least regain on some level) those skill again, like when I worked hard on my 100 days efforts. But honestly, there are things that are more important to me, and while those skills would be nice, at times even helpful, I just don’t care to put my energy into reworking these yet again. I figured that once I regained them, I would always have these abilities again. By not practicing continually, I lost them. Such is life?

I can run, and jump, and many other things in the pool. I do 2-3 hours of water therapy each week, and as long as I keep up this schedule, I maintain these skills. (If I miss pool time for more than about 10 consecutive days, my on-land abilities suffer to the point I can sometimes not even get myself out of bed by myself, and these abilities much be retrained. Pool time is a necessity if I want to remain mobile!)

When I recently tried to do an out-of-the-water jumping jack with my 10-year-old, my legs moved about 1-2 inches apart and I got my heals (not toes) nearly an inch off the floor. Thankfully I was near enough to a door frame I could grab it to keep myself from falling over. In the pool, I can do full-on jumping jacks, over and over, and falling is no issue. This was a surprising discovery, that the buoyancy and lack of gravity in the pool, truly makes SUCH a profound difference!

Knowing this pool information will give a little context to my next story.

In the no-one-will-find-this-humorous-but-me (and perhaps Kendra?) department, while my brain cannot grasp the concept of “running in place” in the water, I do laps, running up and down the length of the pool, while my class runs in place. While running in the water is a less-than-graceful experience for anyone, because of the water resistance, it is at least possible for me because of the body feedback of having water touching so many nerves of my body at one, as well as the lessened gravity issue. When I was running my lap on Friday, my legs were doing crazy gait and flinging out their own directions while my arms were dragging behind by body.

In a sarcastic tone I would not dare use of another person, I heard the self-talk in my heard, “I run like a special needs person!”

This was immediately followed by the surprised realization, “Oh wait! I am a special needs person!”

Words of Jesus

Why this caught me as SO FUNNY is beyond me. I just know that I found myself down at the end of the pool laughing so hard at my “discovery” that I had to try and explain myself when we were all in the locker room after class.

It reminded me of the day, about 2 weeks after my initial strokes, when nearly blind and unstable enough I had to be strapped into my wheelchair to survive the 2-block drive to the rehabilitation hospital in the special needs van, the day I first realized I was “one of those people” now.

You would think, after being home for more than 4 ½ years, growing measurably better year-over-year, I would be “used” to being “different” by now, but I guess the one really amazing part is that I am well enough to actually forget and be truly caught by surprise sometimes!

Even the same person can go through the same stuff at different seasons and have a different experience each time!

1 comment:

  1. Running in place....yeah, tis a concept....and that is all. A concept...