Update: The In Darkness Sing blog at JenniferSaake is experiencing prolonged technical issues, so I'm temporarily posting back here on my old Stroke of Grace blog.

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.

Jennifer 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. (Please see above temporary update note above!)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

5 Years Since My Haircut

The memories keep flooding. This was day 6 of the stroke journey, 5 years back, the day we cut all brain scan gel out of my matted, waist length hair. 

Best pre-stroke hair picture I have, taken about a year prior to stokes, so add a few inches in your mind to see what was cut that day.
Rick Saake with Jenni Saake at Renown Regional Medical Center.
Quick Update:
Jenni was just moved from ICU to the neurological floor. PM me if you need the room number. She will not be seeing visitors, until at least tomorrow afternoon, at the earliest.
October 30, 2011 hair cut, picture take several weeks later, over in rehab hospital.

If you've read the draft version of my stroke book introduction, it was on this day that I received the two mylar balloons that were my companions for the next several weeks. Those balloons passed along by my hospital roommate of only a few hours, hope that I too would leave this hospital as she just had!

Mid-December my hubby hunted down a friend who came to the hospital and took even more length, transforming my hair with some style!
I once wrote about the healing process likely taking about as long as it would take to re-grow my hair. I asked the question who/what would determine when my hair was "long" again? I'm probably close in length to that above pre-stroke picture again today. I'm a LONG way towards healing, far from where I was, so far beyond all the medical "shoulds" that it's not even funny! 

Me today, October 30, 2016.

And yet, I'm not where I want to be yet. Better, not fully restored/recovered. Am I pushing for what will never be? Am I pushing for Rapunzel-length locks? I sometimes get seriously frustrated both with the snail, frozen snot, pace or recovery. I sometimes really get frustrated and consider cutting my hair again. I know myself well enough to know I would not be OK with either decision in the long run. I think there are just days I long for a break from being me.

My hair's too long to even fully fit in the picture today! I's growing!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

5 Years and Today

Facebook memories are both a blessing and source of grief. Here's the reality Rick was starting to comprehend 5 years ago today:

Rick Saake with Jenni Saake at Renown Regional Medical Center.
Update on Jenni (Saturday):
First, I am sorry I did not post yesterday, we were doing a lot of waiting, and I really wanted to have more information.
Let's start with the bad news. Jenni will not be able to go directly home from the hospital, but will first need to make a pit stop at the Renown Rehabilitation Hospital. How long she is there will be there will depend on how fast she can progress. Secondly she is still in the ICU :(
But let's get to the good news. She passed the speech therapists test for correct swallowing, and is now on a soft foods and thick liquid diet. She was also able to walk for almost 2 minutes with the assistance of the physical therapists. She is also having more smiles in the last 2 days than before, so that makes all of those around her feel better.
How to Pray: (Besides the main stroke issues) She is having difficulty realizing that she did not do anything to cause this to happen to her, and she needs to have her spirit uplifted. Pray that she will soon be able to see the kids, as they all miss each other terribly. Pray that she will continue to do well with both the speech and physical therapy.
Note from Rick: I want to thank everyone for their prayers, calls, visits and emails. It is times like these that one realizes how fortunate he/she is in the friends that they have. I above all have been extremely blessed! When this all started, my heart and mind went to really dark places, and I really feared how I was going to make it through this. I now know that I am not alone physically, emotionally and spiritually. There are times that I believe happen to make us stronger, just as heat and stress is added to metal to make it stronger, it is times like this that will make me stronger as well.
Many have asked how you may help:
Once Jenni is back home, I will be looking for people to stay with Jenni in the mornings and a few afternoons, each week, so that I can continue to work a part day at work, and a part day at home.
Also, I (Rick) am not a great housekeeper, and could use some help on that front. Lastly, I will be focusing on Jenni a lot in the near future, so if you have kids who are friends of my kids, and they can get together to do something together, that will help a lot.
On a much lighter note, look at this awesome chair picture a friend sent me (the picture, not the chair!). I love it.

Posted to the Wonderful Woodworking page on Facebook.
And I voted today. Not a first, but first time since stroke where the only assistance needed was a guy to hold the screen in place since it was broken and wouldn't stay by itself. The actual process itself, all the reading, card insertion, button pushing, I did 100% by myself, start to finish, today!

And, just because it's the end of October:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Running Video

It has been brought to my attention that the Alter-G (altered gravity treadmill) video I attempted to share on a recent blog post did not actually post. So here you go. 50% gravity and strapped into a bubble that makes falling impossible, 5 years post-stroke:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Not Permitted

"All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." 
- C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

This morning Facebook is kind enough to fill me in on some of the very earliest information my husband was receiving 5 years back. It seems laughable now to think someone communicated "a few small strokes" to him in those early hours, that 6 months without a driver's license was the big concern at that time!
Last night was pretty uneventful. Jenni was awake off and on through the night, and can still squeeze my hand and nod her head to yes/no questions. Unfortunately, she is really drugged up, and her eyes are not dialating.
She evn tried to do so sign language to communicate with me, but it took me 15 minutes to understand she wanted me to stay with her last night. (dummy me)
I got a couple of hours of total sleep, but am a little sleep deprived.
She is getting an EEG right now, and will be going in for a new MRI of the head and another for the neck. If all is ok, she will get to have her neck brace removed, and hopefully her breating tube will come out as well.
Hopefully the docs will be able to find something to help her out
Later in the day, full recovery and "a few days" hospitalization was the picture painted for him. Poor guy!:
It appears that she has had a few small strokes, but the neurologist is hopeful that she will ultimately recover from the issues that it will cause. She was able to get her neck brace off, and we hope her intibation tube will soon follow. She is breathing on her own, and has even given hugs to a few visitors. I am going to try going home this evening for a few hours of sleep, and Jenni's mom will be with her, while I am away. Please pray for a quick recover, as she needs to get out of ICU and then a regular room for a few days (hopefully) and then home to convalesce. Also pray, as she will lose her drivers license for 6 months minimum. Thanks for all your prayers, emails and calls!
I had only had initial sets of scans yet and two out of what would add up to become six strokes over the course of the month. As full damage would shake out, these first two strokes were both classified as massive, "catastrophic" strokes, but that first morning, when I had survived my initial hours of imminent coma and vomiting and pending death, pulled through that first night, things looked amazingly optimistic for much of Oct. 26, 2011. (I have no memories of this day whatsoever. I'm told my hands were strapped down to  the table to keep me from pulling out my own tubes. I'm told when the breathing tube was removed, I initially had to be coached, verbally reminded to take each breath.)

In the early verses of 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes about "a man" (most scholars believe he was referencing his very own experiences) who saw Heaven. "And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell" (verses 3 and 4, NIV).

According to dictionary.com, the English word permitted is an adjective meaning words such as allowable, sanctioned, tolerated.

Curiously, I looked up verse 4 in Greek, to see how this text was originally penned. Paul (or "the man") heard unspeakable(above we see translated as inexpressible) [arrētos] things, which it is [exestinot lawful [once again, exesti] for man to utter [laleō], 

arrētos is an adjective translating "unsaid, i.e. (by implication) inexpressible:—unspeakable" and is closely related to an adverb that translates "out-spokenly, i.e. distinctly:—expressly".

exesti is a verb compounding the preposition ek [denotes origin, the point whence action or motion proceeds] and the verb eimi [to be, to exist, to happen, to be present], and generally translates along the lines of "It is lawful," or "be lawful," though "may" and "let" are equally valid usages.

laleō is an obsolete verb that indicates any articulate utterance or emission of sound, to talk, utter, tell, speak, use words to declare one's mind or disclose one's thoughts.

This verse could be read that people are not allowed to share glimpses of Glory, but something I had already been much pondering is validated in some alternate uses of the Greek terms here. I believe Paul was saying such visions were too great for a person to be capable of justly expressing. Human language simply does not contain descriptives vivid enough to adequately express such wonders. I don't think this verse speaks to the allowable as much as it does to the possible. Our finite minds are incapable of sufficiently disclosing what we have witnessed! I think, that like Moses in Exodus 6:12, our very best attempts are still spoken with faltering lips!
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. - Psalm 139:6, emphasis added
I'm pondering all this after sharing my story yesterday. It's not at all that I am unwilling to tell more, it is that I truly feel incapable of putting my experience into any deeper words than those I have already shared and the pondering that have grown out of this experience. If you have specific questions, I am more than happy to give you my best attempt in sharing what I can, but I feel so very hampered by the confines of language limitations.
I've tried to capture a fraction of the experience through art in my Homesick for Heaven Pinterest board, and perhaps have done a slightly better job visually than through written word, but my descriptives remain far lacking. The phrase "There is no squinting in Heaven!" frequents my thoughts. The Light is brighter than looking directly into the sun, and yet it is warm and nurturing and there is no need to shield your eyes from the Healing that engulf without shadow! Your eyes are fully capable, hungry for, created to, take it all in!

I spent the first few years begging God to put a damper on my memories, not that I did not feel blessed to have tasted such wonder, but because I felt I would literally loose my mind at being confined to the limits of earth after tasting such pure and profound goodness! I am so very thankful that just enough of the freshness of what I know has rubbed away that I can tolerate, even embrace the here and now where God has assigned me for a season. It has not been an easy transition.

Last call on this month's Lilla Rose Boutique. Stylists (consultants) are only able to host a party for themselves once, so while I may do some Mystery Hostess (where YOU might win all my hostess rewards) shows in the future, but this will be the only time I can be pestering you to come visit my own show! Things have not gone well for my grand re-opening. I needed to make $200 minimum in sales to earn my free items I was hoping for and I've only made three sales, adding up to around $70, so about a third of my minimum goal. I was going to close the show yesterday, but it is still open for a couple more days if you want to help me earn my way to Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference yet this week. If you would be willing to host a Facebook party, this would be very helpful to me as well.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. - Job 42:3, emphasis added


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How We Celabrated

Today (five years since my first two strokes, my "re-birthday") didn't turn out quire as I had expected.

Mom has a bad cold, so we cut out most of our plans for the day, We did not revisit my rehabilitation doctor/hospital. We did not go to lunch.

We are taking a rain check on those. I was disappointed, not in Mom, but in the mean germs that spoiled our plans.

I made gluten-free brownies for myself this afternoon. I told my husband, "I figure if my body won't let me cry, I can at least eat chocolate!" ;)

Except I love lemons too! I eat them straight!

Tonight, my kids all elected to take time away from typical homework  and go out to dinner with the whole family, even knowing it would drive the older two into very late nights of study once we got home.
Thank you, Rick, for taking us all out, even order birthday surprise desert (more gluten-free chocolate) and having the kids sing to me.

It made me heart so happy to be sitting together as a whole family!

On the way out, I knew the music the restaurant blasted outside would be loud, so I held my breath before going out the door, the same way I do if there is upcoming cigarette smoke.

Holding my breath didn't help at all with deafening sound!

It did give us a good laugh though! I love my family!

Changing gears, here's yesterday's AlterG video I promised Tee to try to get. My top speed yesterday was 7.5 miles per hour! I was at 50% gravity and only managed 7.5 for 30 seconds (20 of any quality),

[Attempted video did not post.

Earlier link to Living Scary Brave.

Living Scary Brave

This post is actually a direct continuation of this morning's post on Five Years Ago.

I ended my recollections of that morning by recounting my feelings of physical disconnect and spiritual connection on an indescribable level.

The music that spilled out [from Heaven] and encompassed me is unlike anything I had ever heard, heard with the ear, yet experienced with the whole being, tasted, touched, smelled, pure joy!

How disappointing to find I was still earth-bound...

I am now home from my appointment and ready to share more thoughts.

At 23andMe research study, in partnership with Renown, today,

Front of the hat I'm wearing, since I was trying to juggle the camera at a weird angle for a selfie:
I have been feeling rather ambiguous about my future. Year Six???

Mom and I are two of the 10,000 volunteer participants in this patient research programon the genetic health history of northern Nevada residents. I chose today as my participation date to give back to the hospital God used to save my life!
There isn't supposed to be a year six! There wasn't to be a year five either...

Yes, Kathy, I know. NONE of us know what our futures hold. 

This just feels different. I struggled with it last year. I've struggled again with this landmark too. When you are living days that medically "shouldn't be," it's just bizarre!

This morning, God comforted me with the reminder that all the days ordained for me were written in His book before even one of them came to be (see Psalm 139). My days, those blank, unscripted times that seemed so overwhelmingly uncharted, peninsular, this "borrowed time," really isn't borrowed after all.

I entitled this post Living Scary Brave, because I was thinking this morning about how some days just are plain scary. It almost aches (not physically, I'm talking heartache here) simply to keep breathing. I felt that way this morning.

People often tell me I'm "so brave." I'm not. What choice do I have but to keep living this life?

This morning the phrase "Scary Brave" resounded with me. To make the choice to "be brave" even on the scariest of days. October 25 will likely always be a scary day for me. By God's grace, I pray it can also be an equally brave season.

5 Years Ago

This post was originally titled, "Living Scary Brave, part one," but I've decided to give each "part" its own title. Part Two is now specifically titled Living Scary Brave.

I was not planning to blog this morning.

My thoughts are too full.

I need to spill out words in order to process.

5 years ago, I was looking for a chiropractor. I had a migraine that was lasting longer than usual.

The day before, I had already seen my own doctor, gotten pain shots, gone to the emergency room, even had a CT that confirmed this was a migraine and nothing wrong with an artery. I was calling every chiropractor on my insurance list, was calling friends and my mom to see who could drive me as I was not sure I was in good shape to drive with that much pain.

One guy that took my insurance had an opening in an hour. I didn't even bother with a shower or changing out of my fuzzy, pink flannel jammies. Mom delivered me to his office where he was the only soul there. No patients, No staff.

We briefly chatted about my medical history and he had me lay down on his treatment table. He commented that I was really tight and, "You are sure hypermobile." (I didn't know that term, but have since learned it is basically is a medical way or noting high levels of flexibility, being "double jointed." I could have told you I've always been very flexible. I had no idea there was any medical significance to this. However, my chiropractor should have known that this was an automatic red light and to not try to adjust me with hypermobility. Multiple first year physical therapy students have since told me that one of the very first things they were taught is "Never adjustment a hypermobile joint!")

He commented on the level of tension in my neck, a result of the stress of intense and prolonged migraine pain.  He encouraged me to yield the full weight of my head into his hands.

He rotated my neck toward the right. Immediately some vertebra "popped" and presumably re-aligned, taking a slight level of tension and pain immediately down a notch.

Then he moved to the other side. When he twisted my neck toward the right wall, nothing happened. "Just relax. Trust me."

He tried a second time, slightly more aggressively and forcefully. Still nothing.

He tried at least a third, then I believe a forth time. My mom thinks she counted six rapid, forceful, rapid neck thrusts on that side. (Keep in mind, he had already noted I was hypermobile, yet seemingly forced my neck a little further than the previous time, with each attempt.)

Finally a LOUD "POP" and pain dramatically diminished (presumably as that pinched nerve, muscle, and/or vertebra finally submitted into place). "Oh, that felt so good. But I am SO DIZZY," I exclaimed.

I grabbed the edge of the table with both hands as I felt certain I would fall to the floor. Within seconds, my left leg involuntarily kicked into the air, then flopped off the table.

My mom, sitting in a chair near my feet, thought I was being silly and lifted my leg back onto the table.

As she moved my left, my left arm, immediately followed by my right, shot out wildly into the air. This event was eventually deemed a pseudo-seizure - looked and acted like a grand mall seizure, but had no true epileptic link.

The doctor, who was momentarily out of the room, came running back and grabbed my head in his hands. "Look at me!" he ordered.

I often wonder what was going through his mind as he looked into my actively stroking face, right as it was happening. I bet he had (maybe still has?) nightmares! I wonder if my face was visibly drooping to one side yet? If he watched my left eye as it crossed and locked into paralysis where it would remain fixed against my nose for the next several months? I likely will never know what he witnessed, but I do wonder!

I tried to look up and saw only grey blankness where his face should be. "I can't look at you," I tried to reply,  By then my voice had already slurred and I think I was drooling a bit too. I heard a strange voice say something that sounded a bit like, "I A OO A UO," a slurred version of what I was trying to say, all vowels, but it didn't sound like me at all. I fought the urge to giggle - this was all so bizarre!

I heard running feet and panicked voices as the doctor and my mom each jumped into action. My mom's voice beginning a 911 call was the last think I heard before unconsciousness fully claimed me.

I've been told that the ambulance (and police and fire trucks) arrived in less than five minutes. I have no recollection of the crowd of emergency personnel that I'm told maneuvered my body back down the narrow hallway. When my mom took me to revisit that empty office (my chiropractor moved out of country with months of my accident)  and walk that parking lot four years ago, on my first anniversary, I was able to tell her where the ambulance had been parked and situated, as well as point out the areas of various other emergency vehicles. I never saw any of that, so we still don't know exactly how I was able to recreate the scene, but she confirms my information, that no one ever described to me, was indeed accurate.

I'm told my body was already "posturing" (in "death throws," the rigidity and involuntary twitching to signify deep brain injury) by the time they arrived. As the ambulance door closed behind me, my mom fully expected that she would never see me alive again.

My only memory, after loosing consciousness on that treatment table and before "waking up" in the ICU several days later (I was only fully comatose and unresponsive for six hours, but true awareness was a very gradual, may-day process), I place as having happened in that chiropractic parking lot, before we even left to the hospital...

I remember my mind sparking to wakefulness and realizing I could not see, nor hear anything, nor feel anything, nor make any kind or sound, nor wiggle my body even a fraction. In fact, I felt totally disconnected from my body in the least. The only information I had to work with was unique experience I had just endured and the knowledge that a 911 call had recently been placed on my behalf...

You know how you can sometime sense light shifting without even having your eyes open, like when sun burst through your window in the morning and wakes you up and you know it was a light shift that just took place, even though you cannot actually see it? When my brain sparked awake for that moment, that's why. Maybe an EMT was shining a flashlight in my eyes? Maybe I reacted to being brought out into daylight from the darker office? Only God knows what the catalyst was, but here's what my brain told me was going on when I interpreted a square of light, that I presumed to be the size and shape of a back ambulance window as the ambulance door swung shut, shifting...

I must be in an ambulance now. [Check of five senses and realization of utter body disconnect.] Don't pull the plug! I'm still here.

As those thoughts crossed my mind, I expected a wave of panic to hit. Instead, I was overcome, overwhelmed, engulfed by such tangible peace that any words I use are utterly inadequate.

Borrowing words from Revelation 11, "I saw Heaven opened" for a time. Isaiah 6 has long been a passage I've loved since high school, and while I was yet outside Heaven, looking into the courtyard from still outside the gates, did not see the face of Jesus, only tasted the tiniest sip of the splendor and majesty of God's glory, the grandeur of Isaiah six makes my heart race with anticipation because it is a reflection of the little I got to know. (Here's why I can't tell you much more.)

The music that spilled out and encompassed me is unlike anything I had ever heard, heard with the ear, yet experienced with the whole being, tasted, touched, smelled, pure joy!

How disappointing to find I was still earth-bound... [to be continued later today as I'm off to a doctor's appointment now...]

Link to Part Two, Living Scary Brave.