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. Jenni remained hospitalized until 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. Here is her resume.

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 31, 2016

Face of 44

Gift from friend via Facebook. 

I really don't like my looks since the strokes. I am almost down to my ideal weight again (finally!) and my face is amazingly rather symmetrical, but the huge bags under my eyes, weather from age, stress, pain, lack of muscle tone, or some combination, still make me want to cry just by glancing in a mirror.


But despite all that, I want to celebrate today! Every single birthday card I opened this morning was butterfly themed, one way or another, either the card itself or what was in it. My hubby and 16-year-old are due home today. My 10-year-old came in for an early morning snuggle. My 13-year-old is out in the kitchen making some breakfast surprise.

Edited to show WHAT she made me,
Sorry I ate part of the first gluten-free banana pancake invention before I realized she had spelled out my name!
My mom and I shared hours of giggles in the kitchen yesterday afternoon as we fixed my favorite meal together, our first attempt in a gluten-free version. Rather than beautiful meat rolls we were going for, we had meat blobs, but it sure was fun and they tasted ever bit as good as the original. She also made chocolate-cherry, gluten-free cake, for dinner last night,


My book couldn't be moving slower if it were a snail, but I did make another really neat connection for one section yesterday!  I'm headed to brain-injury survivors night at the ball park tonight, and I found a new butterfly skirt for $12 on eBay that I'm wearing for the first time today.



I breathe, I swallow, I walk, I talk - I am blessed! Enjoy these birthday selfies. :)







A friend "gave" me this cake (actually made for her niece) via photograph today.
She doesn't like it, so I won't share her name, but I adore it. So cute!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Random

I am attempting to keep each post to single subjects now. So the subject line here in "Random." It should be a rather quick post, but updating on a variety of little things I've been needing to share.



First, this is my last week of being 43. On my birthday, we get to attend a Brain Injury special baseball night event! I'm not a sports fan, but I'm excited. I will wear an earplug in my "deaf ear," because though I don't hear well, what I do hear gets so scrambled by my brain that I muffel it even before I get around loud noise (like a ball game crowd) in order to help prevent physical pain and nausea.


During the week, my very best friend has been here for a few days (and I get to see her for a few days on her way home next week too). I probably need to do a whole post just about her visit.



Updates on my kids. The 16-year-old, Lord willing, will be home on my birthday, after two months away from home. Best. Birthday. Present. EVER!!!


Our 13-year-old flew back (unaccompanied) to Wisconsin earlier in the month. She had an amazing time at aeronautics camp. She flew in a helicopter, worked on several different hands-on airplane wing design projects, co-piloted a small airplane at sunset, riveted and wired airplane stuff, and had the time of her life.


She came home on Saturday, turned around, and went to math camp (her choice - she even saved up all year to pay her own way) on our local state university campus on Sunday!

 

On Monday they went roller skating. She did fine. Even perfected backwards skating she's been working on for years and taught one of the leaders how to skate.


She came back to the dorm for the night, took a shower, then slipped on the wet tile. Not roller skating. Not at aeronautics camp. Not doing any risky activity. MATH CAMP!



And BROKE HER FOOT! (Yes again! Seventh major bone break in the last ten years. Third foot break. Yes, we have done genetic testing. No, they did not find any definitive reasons.)
Just a reminder to every one of my friends that I am not OK talking on the telephone. Please don't take it personally that I don't talk to you. Please don't feel you should be my exception to this request. My exceptions are my mother, my husband and, to a limited extent, my three children (though even my children primarily text me when we have distance communication needs). Even my own brother is relegated to texting! My mom an Rick know me better than anyone else. They listen to me talk each day and understand my post-stroke speech (though my mom often needs to tell me to slow down or not shout at her) and keep thing short enough I can handle them. They also understand my own memory, cognition and hearing issues well enough to patiently help me work through what is being said. With great anxiety, when I have no other options, I will also conduct business like medical appointments via telephone, on speaker phone or with the headset Rick bought me for Christmas.


I've run into my speech therapist a few times recently. She always makes a point to tell me how impressed she is with my speaking abilities now! Some people still need me to clarify and repeat myself several times, even when we are face-to-face, but it seems most people understand me in direct communication almost all of the time now. There are only a couple dozen three-syllable words I am keenly aware of still frequently mistaking. Like if I am just talking and don't stop to think and sound out a word like "vehicle," it comes out as a cross between a 2 and 3 syllable word, like 2 1/2 syllables, with that second not quite skipped, but sort of soft and squished between the first and last, sort of like, "ve-ic-le".


I've been feeling more edgy than usual lately, perhaps fighting a bit more depression than I have in a while, though I think this is circumstantial, not chemical. (Edited to add: After righting this post, I discovered that I had actually missed one day of my antidepressant, the day  of or day before writing. I am now to the smallest dose prescribed and cut that pill in half, so it is TINY and simply stuck to the inside of my pill container when I took my other morning pills. While I only take 5 mg now, they are obviously still an important 5mg of medication that my brain still needs to process emotions!) I have had two "second and third degree" people in my life (not super close direct friendships, but one fairly close online-only friend and one very close friend's father) die within the past month, both through rather tragic circumstances that have shaken me pretty hard. I have three other friends who are in great emotional struggles and fighting with God over suicidal depression due to horrendous circumstances they have each been enduring. And our marriage, while we are each deeply committed to making it work, has yet to return to pre-stroke "normal," so the ongoing stress is hard on us both.


By God's grace, we do have a major praise in God's provision of a new (to us) car. Thank you for praying about this issue for us! (An example of my current emotional state is that while I should feel really excited by the nicest car we have ever owned, I'm frustrated that I still don't have the needed skills to safely try to drive it!)


“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping.”
—Romans 4:18a NLT

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Eli

I promised a few months ago, that I still had a couple special Mount Hermon memories coming.



One person who made my week what it was, holds a very dear place in my heart, is in the majority of my conference memories, is Eli.


She plopped down at our table the first night of the main conference. Her beautiful skin and bright eyes captivated me, while her bold tattoos proclaimed Jesus in a way so unashamed that I was intimidated. The legitimate roar of the too-loud crowd gave me the excuse I needed not to engage the young woman clear across the table in any direct communication.


Toward the end of the meal I caught enough of her story to be intrigued by this photo she shared of herself less than 4 years earlier:


To hear bits and pieces of her pre-Jesus life of drugs and addiction and try to reconcile these stories with the gracious woman speaking was hard for my brain to process:


When a woman with a prodigal child moved close and I saw Eli's immediate compassion and ministry of prayer, my heart felt bonded to hers even before we ever got to talk directly.


All weekend long, Eli was put right back into my life at nearly every turn.


One of the funniest moments, that became a beautiful God appointment, was when I was down in the author hospitality center (lounge) talking to the tape ministry ladies when I heard a lady's voice behind me asking, "Where are the people to pray?"


Thinking she was looking for the prayer partner team that had been available the day before, without even knowing who was there, I jumped at the chance to volunteer, "I'll pray with you!"


Spinning around, I was thrilled to find Eli standing there! As we exchanged huge hugs, she replied, "I would love to pray with you, as soon as I find where to pay for my copies!"


We both laughed, but as soon as she had conducted her brief business, we had a lovely 20 minutes of prayer together!


"What are you going to do when someone offers to pray with you," Eli quipped. "Say no?"


One of my favorite Eli quotes of the weekend, "You can take the girl out of the gang. You can't all the way take the gangster out of the girl!" Maybe that looses something without the surrounding context, but that's enough of a quote for me to remember the surrounding story.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Body Surprises




“Does it hurt right here?”

“No? Even a little bit?”

“What about here?”

“Here?”

“Is this tender?”

“Hmm…”

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!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Storytelling

I'm still here. Summer just is busy! I'm also really trying to reclaim areas of my house that have suffered from nearly 5 years of neglect, so I can but more focus into book writing. In another month, all my kids will be home (I currently have one in California, one in Wisconsin, and only one here in Nevada) and back in school, summer camps, visits and medical appointments will be behind us, and I hope to return to a more predictable schedule. For now, I'm soaking in these long, busy days with my kids home.


I'm really going to try shorter, single-topic posts now. Usually when I wait a while between posts, I get LONG updates trying to cover all the topics I've missed. I hope to start posting multiple blog posts, scheduled over several days, to replace those multi-topic makeup post.


So for today, I'm just thinking about story-telling - the books my 5th (already?) grader and I are reading together over the summer to build his brain and my own, as well as my own writing efforts. From an article entitled, What Storytelling Does To Our Brains:
We know that we can activate our brains better if we listen to stories. The still unanswered question is: Why is that? Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other have such a profound impact on our learning?
The simple answer is this: We are wired that way. A story, if broken down into the simplest form is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think.
We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation.

So far this summer, my youngest and I have taken turns reading to each other about Helen Keller's teacher, Annie Sullivan, The Tale of a Forth Grade Nothing,  Mary Jones and her Bible, and are most of the way finished with our summer family tradition of the first book in the Kingdom series by Chuck Black (love these even more than Chronicals in Narnia so they are our family's go-to, over-and-over read-aloud series!). While I'm not a fast reader, I also devoured The Lucky One by sex-trafficking survivor Jenni S. Sessen, in just 24-hours, last week - no that's one I did not read with my children! And, another shout-out about the book Hope Heals, both my parents just finished it and told me how much more they understand and can relate to my stoke journey now - power in story-telling!


Please pray. It is a LONG-shot, but two nights ago, I just submitted my stroke story to a contest to be considered by a Hollywood producer as a potential screenplay. That is a dream of my heart, to see God glorified on the big screen, thousands of lives changed for Him, because of my journey. That would be some exciting story-telling!