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, September 11, 2016

Thrashed Metabolism, 5,000 to 900

7 months before my accident. Just being a mom, a homeschool teacher, raising chickens.

In that second week after my first two strokes (and a few days after my 3rd one), I have my first fairly consistent memories. My rapid weight loss was already becoming evident. By now my feeding and breathing tubes (that I don't remember at all) had been removed and I was being re-trained on how to swallow thickened liquids. I was practicing swallowing foods no thicker than applesauce or ripe bananas (a food I had always loved but now detested because the potassium fed via IV left me with an aversion to anything potassium-rich by mouth) and no thinner than a milkshake. Even water had to be treated with thickening powder to allow my slow swallow-reflex ability to process liquids into my stomach rather than shoot it down into my lungs. Hot beverages were no longer an option. (Even now, I must be careful not to attempt to sip on anything too warm, as it will sit at the back of my throat and burn me before I can get it swallowed.)

13 months before my accident.

Add to the inability to take in much food, It has been estimated that early requirements of deep brain injury survival demands around 5,000 daily calories, due to the excessive demand of automatic functions (heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, digestion, etc.) struggling to re-learn and maintain autonomous function. I would lay in bed (on a urinary catheter because I had no bladder control, without a bowel movement in 10 days because my colon was paralyzed), without trunk control to even roll over on my own nor sit up in bed, and my job was to drink six Boost-spiked ice cream milk shakes per day that week.

Early in rehab hospital, maybe 3 or 4 weeks after first strokes.

Before I came home, just less than two months after those first strokes (not quite a month after my arterial repair surgeries brought about by the 4th, 5th and 6th strokes as that shredded artery was trying to heal but kept throwing new blood clots), I had lost somewhere between 20-25 pounds. Yes, several weeks of that included brutal and demanding therapies, as my body regained various levels of control, but the physical activity alone, especially given my high-calorie intake, cannot account for that kind of loss. That level of healing just tossed all metabolical "rules" out the window!

First week of December. About 5 weeks into recovery.

One prayer request that was frequently shared for me during those early months home was my need to regain weight. I was showered with chocolate cake, cookies, bon-bons and other candies, and anything caloric that I could now manage. My 11-year-old even spent his own money to by me a special self-stirring milk-shake cup and made it his duty to bring me daily drinks he made in it.

First day home, 50 days after chiropractic arterial dissection and strokes.

Gain I did! Within a couple of years, I had not only fully regained all my hospital weight loss, but blasted up another 40+ pounds as well! When I talked with my doctor about controlling this gain, she shared she was actually please to see me gaining rather than loosing at this stage of recovery. She encouraged me that I needed to be fueling my physically therapies and it was a very good sign that my body had enough metabolic balance again that it could actually conserve calories rather than burn through everything I took in and more.

13 months after first strokes

Even with her words of counsel about calories and metabolism, I knew I could be making better food choices, less sweets, specifically! At about 10-months post-stroke, I began my first serious efforts to bring my eating under control, yet my scale climb rapidly continued. I tried all kinds of methods.

30 months after.

While some slowed my gain, or even temporarily erased a pound or three, nothing reversed my progressive gain for more than a few weeks hesitation. Having just (intentionally) lost 40 pounds prior to my strokes, this was disheartening!

One month before my strokes.

A year ago (Sept. 11!) I had my hysterectomy/ appendectomy/ endometriosis clean up again. When, at my post-surgery appointment, the scales tipped past my life-long highest weight ever, I got angry enough to take even more drastic measures. I hit the research path again and tried a variety of diets and programs.

Just before my surgery a year ago.

First, I cut ALL WHEAT totally from my diet. I had already tried this three times over the prior three years, but never this drastically (avoiding even soy sauce and reading every label for traces of wheat), this committedly, and with such conviction of the health benefits of my decision to remove all modern-day wheat (99% of our world's supply) from my diet. A year later (today) I am still totally wheat-free. (As an added benefit, the only migraine headaches I have had after about 6 weeks of clearing this ingredient from my diet, are directly traceable to a handful of accidental wheat exposures.) With no other lifestyle changes, this dietary choice alone was responsible for nearly 20 pounds of weight loss within 4-6 months. Then I plateaued.

Nearly two months after surgery, several weeks after cutting wheat from my diet.

Next, I signed up for a half dozen free "fire up your metabolism" type daily email tip lists. I've implemented several "do this one weird trick daily" type eating and specific exercise routines. I take a couple teaspoons of ceylon ("sweet") real cinnamon each day. I eat coconut oil and chia seeds.  I still spend at least two hours per week in the pool, swimming or doing water aerobics. I signed up for a paid "6-pack" abdominal training program since I am still striving to regain core strength, though, months into it I'm still working on the basics of level 1, videos 1 and 2. (It's a cool program though, based on research of how babies learn to use their muscles to develop the early skills or rolling, crawling, standing, walking, etc. I'm sure you could be much farther along, much more quickly than I am! My long-term goal is to build a "3-pack" since only the abdominal muscles on my lesser-stroked, right side are actually remotely responding to any toning efforts, while the left side still just blobs.)

Left side no longer sticks out as far as this, but still has little control!

Sadly, I've lost my beloved doctor to a heart attack since the strokes. My new guy put me on actual injections this past spring. Our hope was that I would be able to loose close to 20 pounds within 3 or 4 months.

The initial plan was to jumpstart this loss through 6 weeks of medication. Based on my poor response to the initial 6 weeks, we added 4 more, then another 2 more weeks, for a total of 12 weeks of treatment. I lost an astounding total of four pounds. Yes, FOUR! (At one point, I had managed to loose an entire six, but gained back two of those even while still in treatment, only maintaining a net total of four pounds gone by the end of the three months.)

Last professional picture before strokes.

After I stopped injections, I started implementing intermittent fasting about mid-July, 23 hours (eat dinner, then nothing but water and a little herbal tea until the next evening's dinner), one day out of every seven.

In early August I added ridiculously expensive daily high protein shakes, constantly replacing every breakfast and many lunches, with these drinks. I have to commit to a solid two month trial of this program before I can take them up on their money-back guarantee, but in the first month with this system, I lost a grand total of one pound. O.N.E. I can't say I'm overly impressed.

A few months after.
Looking at the big picture, in the past 12 months, I am down 35 very hard-fought pounds! For the first time in 3 1/2 decades, I am consistently migraine-free. I have been able to cut my daily stool softeners from 3 (that first year or two, post-stroke), to 2 (a year ago, when I started this majorly aggressive fight), to 1 (as a result of the what-related loss), to now (since early summer) NONE. simply by getting weight off my still partially impaired internal organs!

In July, my personal metabolic rate was specifically measured. To maintain my weight, I can now take in no more than 1,117 each day (plugging in my age/height/activity level into a standard Calorie Calculator, I should be able to eat a little over 1,700 calories a day.) 1,100 is a far cry from the 5,000 I burned through simply by existing, not even five years back! Because my brain took such a beating, my metabolic control center is still trying to decide how to function.
(Not my personal results. A google image of metabolic calculations.)

If I'm going to have a chance at loosing any more weight (I still have at least 5 - high end goal, to 15 - lower limit for my ideal weight range, in order to help my heart, lungs and other organs have the best chance of coping against the impact of stroke slugishness), I need to target for under 900 calories per day. I get out of a workout and feel like I need to eat, but this 900 calorie calculation is already taking into account my activity level! (Without brain dysregulation, I should easily be loosing on over 1,300 a day. 1,080 should put me on the course for "extream fat loss" - that's just barely under the number I currently need to target for maintenance!)  My brain is just a mess. I went from burning WAY too many calories with the bare-boned basics, to not remembering how to use calories properly even when I should.

Sounds about right these days!

900 calories in 24 hours. An apple is about 80-100 calories.

I made gluten-free cookies as an after-school treat for my kids last week, then was horrified to realize they cost about 150 calories PER COOKIE. I went out to lunch the day after learning my new calorie goal, and between my 110 calorie breakfast shake and the lowest calorie item on their menu (540 calories), I did pretty well with a grilled chicken breast (another 140 calories) for dinner. I had opted for the lunchtime salad, even with sweet dressing, over the fruity drinks spot next door, where a single "healthy" concoction could have easily cost me in excess of 700 calories in the small size of just one drink! Then I realized I had messed it all up with a 205 calorie raspberry iced tea and an ounce of tortilla chips - another nearly 200, with my lunch! Sigh.

It's slow, but I'm getting there!
This picture was taken on Monday, playing a game of Washers (similar to Horse Shoes).
I played (and won the round against my skilled 10-year-old, I might add!) without a cane!
I'm not sure 900 is consistently realistic and doable for me. At least I have a better understanding of why weight loss has been so hard for me, why I pack on the pounds so easily now. I wonder if my metabolism will ever fully heal, properly balance out to process as it should again? If so, how long might that take to come about? Lord, please help me to be a wise steward of this unique body you have given me!

Before the strokes.
Changing topics for just a moment, the above picture of being able to walk out on a hill and sit on a rock, unaided, reminds me of how easily I could move before the strokes. This week I could stay still and balanced enough to throw disks small metal disks (two pictures up - my therapists would be amazed at that!) but still required two pointed walking sticks to move around that terrain pictured behind me in the Washers game. One bit of progress though is I could actually move that left hiking stick sort of where I wanted to go with most steps. In the past I'v only been able to drag it behind me. My arm let me know it didn't like being depended on that way (ouch!), but like it or not, I got that arm to (mostly) do as told. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great and informative posting, Jenni. What you have been through is worth writing a book (and I think you are).

    Continuing prayers for all the needs including getting to that right weight.