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, January 29, 2017

In The Kitchen

There was a topic I intended to address in my update last night. I spaced it until just now.

The first couple times I was taken into the tiny rehab hospital kitchen, it was to teach me skills like standing next counter with a speciality walker, not even trying to walk around.

Snow falling view out my front door last week.

I got promoted to doing basic tasks while standing at a counter, things like turning on and off the water at the sink, of cutting playdough-like therapy putty with a blunt plastic knife.

By the time I left the rehabilitation hospital, I had the skills to make myself a cup of warm (not hot because I couldn't swallow enough to cope with liquids past luke-warm temperatures) tea.

Out my bedroom slider.

To use fire or lift a tea kettle of water, even with my stronger right arm, I needed profound assistance and strict supervision.

Last week's view out our living room slider.

When I got home, I could not manage to get from sink to stove (2 or 3 steps across a walkway between side-counter to center island), could not carry anything,

Out my bedroom slider.

The first recipe I attempted to follow was a simple tater-tot casserole I had made dozens of times before. My home occupational therapist walked me through each step of attempting to open about 6 cans with a can opener (he ended up having to do the opening for me) and dump them into a casserole dish for someone else to lift into the over.

View over the fence brom living room slider.

What should have taken me about 5 minutes, took most of an hour and I was EXHAUSTED at the end from trying to follow all those instructions!

Butterfly leggings from a friend.

I doubt I even got all the steps right, for it sure didn't taste very good when finished, either.

I remember the first day I managed to carry a pretend tray of "lemonade" (air) and "serve" (pretend to pour from a pitcher, then hand a glass to the receptionist) at outpatient therapy a year or so after the stokes. The receptionist had to blink back tears as ske reached for her cup.

At the same therapy facility, I later remember carrying a half-full cup of cold water (primarily with my stronger right hand, but needed to help with my left as well) a few steps. We celebrated that I only spilled part of the water.

Lilla Rose figure 8 Flexis (hair clips) make fantastic "ties" for Lula Roe and other oversize clothes!

After several months I could step from stove to sink, with a cane or walker. It was a few years before I strong and steady enough to get a 1/4 full pot of cold water to my stove without sloshing the contents everywhere though! Once the water was hot, I couldn't even try to move it again!

Japanese Curry, a family favorite!

Months later, the first meal I tried to make for guests, very basic one-dish crock pot curry, a family staple I had made regularly since childhood, it took me four hours and I was in a panic attack by the time my husband got home from work, an hour and a half before guests were due, and calmed me down. Attempting to follow a recipe, setting the table, and doing a little very basic pick up before anyone came, was way too much overload for my brain!

Yummy roast from a week ago. I can now brown meat over a hot stovetop, cut veggies with a sharp knife, carry a heavy cast iron pan several steps, and lift it in and out of a hot oven now. My early therapists would be stunned!

I'm now to the point where I can walk across the kitchen even carrying a fairly FULL pot of HOT (boiling) water! My left arm occasionally gives out on me without warning, bit it is about 95% reliable to complete whatever task it starts. I've only dropped a few hot or heavy items unexpectedly over recent months.

Lilla Rose

A week and a half ago, I made a five complete meals over 36 hours!

A turkey is moist and WELL DONE if it falls apart as you try to lift the cooled bird from the pan!

One day I made a 26 pound turkey by myself. I overcooked it and it split in half as I tried to lift it out of the pan. The next day, Kathy showed up to spend about 4 hours cleaning the disaster I had created of my kitchen in the process!

That second morning, I started a pot of curry (the same dish that had done me in my first guest meal attempt) before Kathy showed up, boiled the previous day's turkey carcass to make soup, then made a roast with veggies, crock pot Mongolian Beef, 10 cups of rice, AND prepped all the peppers and onions for fajitas, all before Rick got home from work that Wednesday evening.

Early stages of Mongolian Beef. 

No, I normally don't cook this much. We were given a fresh turkey after I already had all the ingredients purchased for the week, so I was cooking it all up to make sure none went to waste.

Adorable bear leggings a friend sent me. Across my leg is the flash drive containing my book manuscript for Harvesting Hope From Heartache.

I cooked it all at once also because I wanted to take a few hours to work ahead so that I could concentrate on writing the rest of the week. Thee food pictures posted here are from a week ago Tuesday and Wednesday.

It amazes me to think how far I've come in five years! If you spend time with me, it's still pretty obvious I'm "different," but compared to where I started, the mental, organizational, and physical skills and stamina improvement are astounding!

My idea of "bear feet" in the winter. ;)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What's Been Happening?

Since I last posted here, we have a new president in America and we have celebrated an 11th and 14th birthday in our house, my kids have grieved the deaths of two pets, and my daughter has acquired a new bird (yes Kathy, Twitter died on R.'s birthday and Chloe is our newest family member now).

I also am making significant writing progress. (My latest update is posted on my Harvesting Hope blog.)

In fact, writing is about all I've been doing, how I'm filling nearly every waking moment right now. And I LOVE it! I'm just so slow. I actually type fast enough that my mother-in-law heard me the other day and turned around to see if I had started using two hands. My slowness comes in thought processing speeds. Please pray for clarity and swiftness to finish this book.

My computer has basically decided it hates Skype (if I've run the program, the only way to close it now is to shut down my computer and restart, usually requiring about 4 hours of restart attempts), strongly dislikes Facebook at the moment (usually requires a computer restart if I visit Facebook, but at least the computer does usually start up again easily), my battery is such that my laptop instantly shuts down if unplugged from the wall for even a slip second, and it has some weird motion thing that I can't carry it anywhere and the battery will only show it is charging (up to a max of about 30% of the battery gage logo) if I keep it in one exact spot.

After Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, a new computer will be the next big purchase on my wish list. For now, it works well to be "racing the clock" to strive to finish my manuscript before my computer dies, and stay off Facebook and other wonderful, but time-eating places on the internet.

My ear's doing well since surgery (still pretty hearing impaired but pain's pretty much GONE), my mouth still has a fair amount of numbness but enough "waking up" sensation that my teeth feel both numb and somewhat painful at the same time. I recently had my first post-stroke dental visit with no cavities. My left leg is chronically painful and annoyed with the cold weather. My jaw frequently still ache and occasionally zap me with intense burst of TN (type 1) pain, but the moment-by-moment a-typical (type 2) TN of that left jaw has subsided quite a lot.  I still type only with my right hand. I actually didn't even pay attention to the fact that the 25th of this month was a stroke anniversary date until this evening (the 28th)! I haven't had real tears for a couple years now, but TWICE since November, I've actually cried, first from ear surgery pain (there was a total emotional disconnect that made me wipe wetness off my cheeks and tell my mom, "My eyes are leaking. I think this is a pain reaction!") and recently in a conversation where tears were appropriate to my emotions! (I added an entire post about Kitchen Accomplishments and progress too.) This all speaks to progress, both physical and emotional, I think.

Shout out to my friend Kristi. I love her post on commands, convictions, and preferences so very much, I wanted to share it with you!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Beach Butterflies

Massive trees, hung with outdoor Christmas lights, were on of my favorite sights of our trip.
This is my 501st post to this blog. I'm feeling reflective, so here's a recap of my story:

Rick stopped by the side of the road to take a picture of one of the many flower-covered walls that marked various property lines along the road in  Boca Grande. There flowers were vibrant purple, orange, yellow and all set against vibrant green!

My doctors told me I had "multiple catastrophic strokes." I was later told either one of my first two strokes "should" have killed me, while the other four were each "moderate" in severity. The first two were brain stem and cerebellar. The four over the next month were "in the lobes" (as specific as I was ever told). 
At 5 years out, my untrained eyes can no longer see those moderate strokes on brain scans. My doctor is still amazed at how well I function today with as much brain matter as I lost and how much my brain mass has now shrunken.
After a chiropractic accident dissecting an artery, I experienced a seizure, loss of vision, slurred speech, then unconsciousness right there on the treatment table. I was severely posturing (in "death throws" signifying deep brain injury) when the paramedics came and was not expected to make it to the hospital alive.
I was totally unresponsive for the next 6 hours (during which time I vomited so often they had to intubate me to keep from drowning) and in ICU 5 1/2 days, a neuro unit for another week, several weeks in a rehab hospital, back to nuro for two emergency arterial stents after the additional 4 strokes since the artery couldn't heal on its own, back to ICU, 5 days back on the neuro floor, then several weeks back at the rehab hospital, for a total of nearly two months inpatient.

In addition to near-total initial left side paralysis, it was eventually understood that I lost a significant amount of hearing (an issue that seems permanent).

View during Christmas Eve dinner.

If you have been reading here long, you know I recently took my very first post-stroke airplane trip and spent a week in Florida with my family for Christmas! (I now have the smallest feet in the family.) 

I had planned to write all about the trip, but am not getting my thoughts together to do so, so I invite your specific questions in the comments here and I'll be glad to answer in future posts.

Palm frond unfolding.

By asking questions (maybe specifics about post-stroke flying, something about Florida, etc.), you'll hear what you want to know and you will be helping me to order my thoughts. Please comment!

Banyon trees are my new favorite trees!

If you enlarge this thank you note, you can see both the improved quality of my writing ability (if I'm well-rested, relaxed, and have plenty of time to write and think), as well as a highlight of my trip.

Rather than trying to recap an entire week here, I wanted to share one particular experience. 

Our family had several occasions to go play on the beaches, including two long outings that were dedicated just to swimsuits and waves.

While I did get to dig my bare feet into the sand, and even take a brief, exhilarating, yet exhausting, walk out into waist deep water (while clinging desperately to both of my husband's hands as the sand shifted under my feet, the COLD waves challenged my balance, the constant water movement messed with my equilibrium, and the power of the water surged and vibrated against my senses), I spent most of my time sitting on the shore and playing in sand while watching my family.

I had heard there were butterflies on the island, but saw none for the first five days of our visit.

That second day of watching my family, I was feeling rather melancholy, kind of sadly content/peaceful to realize they could function and have a wonderful time without me. 

There were some moments of loneliness, but overall it was simply a non-emotional realization that I'm not "needed," that my husband and kids function now well without me. I'm sure I'm not wording this well, because, for the most part, these thoughts were more reassuring than depressing.

It was hopeful and encouraging to see how far the four of them have grown over these past five years. How "less lost" there would be as a family-unit if I were gone today over how they would have faired five years back.

As is easy to do while playing on the beach, my family would often drift so far away from my spot that we could no longer interact. 

My sand cane tip. Works awesome for snow too.
This would make a fantastic post to share details if anyone wants to know more.

On about four of these occasions, I got a little moody, feeling lonely, keenly aware of physical disability, and sorry for myself.

After seeing no butterflies all week, on each one of those first three times I lamented to God in self-pity, a butterfly flew right by, there on the beach, not even inland where we had seen all the lush tropical plants I would expect to attract them!

Beyond a doubt, they were each different creatures, as each one had different coloring than the other two!

The Pioneer Woman burgundy butter trivet Kathy gave me. *heart*

Three different butterflies in a matter of a few hours!

During my fourth lonely moment, our daughter who had had a grand time, hunting for seashells, splashing in waves, finding a horseshoe crab, catching a tiny baby seahorse (she thought it was dead when she fished it out of the water, then it wriggled in her hand and she put it back in the water after bringing it to show me), gathering clams, and more, spontaneously came back to sit with me.

Ruth, the clam digger.

I told her about my butterflies and her reply was, "I'm sorry you have felt lonely so many times today, Mom!" That startled me because it had not been my overreaching emotion of the day, and not even really the focus of my story (only the wonder and joy that each time I had felt lonely, God had sent a butterfly my way), then she spent the next hour chatting and building sand castles with me.

We then left Joshua and Rick to keep playing in the ocean while we took Jeremiah and walked over the little sand walk to the swimming pool I could manage.

The next day, my girl (who thinks I have WAY over-butterflied our house) went to an event then came home with this choice of facepainting specifically with me in mind.

I need to get another post up soon about life since coming home. We've had flooding, and snow days, and tons of house cleaning / organizing due declaring war on my clutter after spending a week in a beautifully cared-for condo and being pampered by my mother-in-law who did all the cooking and kept things tiny, an update on Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference plans, and LOTS and LOTS of hours spent book writing. 

I still have even more Florida pictures I want to share, but for now, please enjoy these. (If you have access to Facebook, you can also check out the couple dozen turtle shots I took for me friend Tee.)