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.

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.) 

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