Category: Pain or Illness

Crisis Amidst Crisis

If you’ve been following along on our 15-year-old’s medical saga of the past two months, you know things are rather crazy in our home. I’m sad to say that this faint-free spell only lasted a week. We’ve had code blue calls from her school the past two days in a row again.

Our nerves are so tightly strung that the phone can’t ring or a door open without us physically jumping, every muscle tightly wound, ready to respond to the next medical crisis. Rick called to say, “I love you,” yesterday, and instead of answering the phone with my typical “Hi Handsome,” I saw his number on the screen and grabbed it with a panicked, “Is everything OK?” God is the anchor we are clinging to, but this is HARD!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

While our 18-year-old was driving our girl and me to her doctor yesterday, our son nearly had to pull over the car because of sudden, rather intense chest pain and trouble breathing. He got us safely to her doctor, I called my mom to come take over with R., then I rode along with J. who was able to drive himself to urgent care two blocks away. A breathing treatment did wonders and our oldest is now carrying an asthma inhaler. So thankful this medical issue was quickly addressed and had a cut and dry solution!

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Explaining Soup

It has been 7 weeks at 2 days since our 15-year-old’s saga started. We’ve been in local ER 4 times, twice resulting in 2 night local admissions, once sent home, and most recently the local ER visit resulted in her getting ambulanced to an out-of-state hospital for a 3-night stay last week. (The ambulance made it in 4 1/2 hours in the middle of the night with clear weather, but drive has taken as much as 8 hours with bad weather and traffic.) We also flew ourselves to a different children’s research hospital three weeks back, where she spent two full days in about 10 1/2 hours of outpatient appointments, followed 3 nights inpatient.

Between all these hospitals, I’m happy to say we have ruled out pretty much every imaginable life-threatening issue we would need to take imminent action to address.

We know a ton of things that are NOT wrong with our girl, and for each we are very thankful!

She has been off medication for over a week (last dose was a week ago Wednesday) and fainted again Sunday night, twice Tuesday (instigating the ER trip that resulted in Stanford ambulance), but not at all since. Perhaps we are dealing with  something in the autonomic world??? (Yes, we started with a tentative POTS diagnosis on our very first hospitalization, then that has been repeatedly questioned, medications have been tried with severe complications, and now we seem to possibly be circling back around to something potentially related to the original diagnosis.)

We anticipate about three more months of intensive testing, likely to unfold in about four different states, before we expect to have clear answers. I’ll probably not talk much about specifics, or answer most questions, as it is all rather overwhelming, confusing, and medical advice is often contradictory.

What I do know, what we cling to now more than ever before, is that God is sovereign, that He has a good plan for our daughter and for our family, and that He is loving, just, and wise.

Current issues are fainting (though not in the past six days – thank you Lord!), blindness, hair fall (but most of her bald patches are filling back in with new growth), some recent hearing loss (as of a week ago Sunday), and fairly intense cognitive/memory issues (since Tuesday, Oct. 23rd). Tuesday morning our daughter initially did not even know her own name, when the school was trying to wake her from her first faint. After that, she knew one classmate, but only the name and not why she knew the name or who this person was. It was a hard struggle, but she could piece together who Rick and I, and both of her brothers (though one only by nickname and not given name) were.

The one and only name she did not struggle to identify, came about an hour after initial faint. I asked, “Who is your Savior and Lord?” Without a moment’s hesitation she beamed, “Jesus!”

Our girl has gradually regained more and more grasp on reality, remembering a few past events. She currently has about an 80% grasp at retaining most new-to-her information as we tell it to her. She remembers next to nothing of this entire past couple of months, does not remember having had either surgery earlier this year, or that she has ever broken any bones – she’s broken 8 for the record.) She does not know her favorite color (Rick says blue, I think it was green) so has decided (remember, she is blind, so this is a memory choice) that she now prefers yellow.

We eat soup and tacos each several times per month; she did not know either word and we had to explain both. In most things she acts like a mature nearly 16-year-old. Random words and memories are totally non-existent to her. And we are dealing with a lot of breakthrough 4-year-old type questions and emotional behavior.

Please pray as Rick and I and her school, as we start arranging accommodations to face these newest challenges.

Bald Blind BEAUTIFUL

Yesterday, our daughter posted a selfie on instagram. In her own words, her hair “was falling out in handfulls, and I told myself I wasn’t going to loose my hair to sickness or medications, and if I was going to be bald it would be because I was confident enough to not feel like I need my hair to protect me or make me beautiful and to be able to shave it off myself, so that’s exactly what I did”.

In synopsis, since September 8, we have been in two ambulances, three emergency rooms, countless doctor’s offices, and inpatient in hospitals in two states, three times. We know a ton of information about what is NOT going on, but no clear answers about why she is struggling.

She hasn’t fainted in three weeks now. She is still totally blind (lost eyesight within 48 hours). Over half of her hair fell out, in individual strand cascading like a waterfall, (over two weeks) then in huge chunks as large as 4×6 inches of baldness at once (over 36 hours)! We broke down and shaved the remaining hair on Wednesday after another huge section on the side of her head came off with the beanie she wore to school on Wednesday to camouflage the large patch missing off the back of her head. One area fell out in a nearly-perfect heart shape, so once we shaved her remaining hair to ¼ inch, the bald heart looked intentional.

Today will be our third doctor’s appointment of the week. She is very frustrated by the amount of school she is missing. We are tying to emphasize that our priority is her well-being. The teachers, school staff, and her counselor are being fantastically supportive. The school started her on learning Braille on Wednesday and started mobility safety training with her VI (visual impairment) teacher today.

We are on the waiting list for a referral to an “undiagnosed conditions” program out of state. Please join us in praying that she will be accepted into the program (they receive so many applications that only a small fraction of kids actually get in). Also pray for doctors to have wisdom to figure out what’s going on and be able to help her. According to God’s perfect will and timing, we are simply requesting full healing for our girl, whether He wants to accomplish that through the common grace of medical aid, or to move miraculously to bring about dramatic healing that glorifies His name by leaving the medical community without explanation!

It is a HARD road we are walking. (If you don’t know the backstory, I told more at missed-deadlines and literal.) We are clinging to God’s grace through the darkness.

I cry to you, LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
– Psalm 142:5 (NIV)

Breaking Up With Bed

On this date of July, 2010, I wrote this resignation letter:

Dear Bed,
You are a faithful friend. We spend many more hours together than most. I know you well and am thankful for your comfort. But may I be honest and say I really would prefer to spend much less time together from here on out? It’s not you, it’s me. I really would like to move on from this dependent relationship!

Today, I wrote this prayer:

Lord, thank You that chronic illness is in a more manageable season for me right now. Thank You that You did grant the desire of my heart to need less hours in bed that year, blessing my kids and husband to get to know a fairly normal-energied mom/wife for several months. Thank you that every day I’m gaining a little more ground from the strokes that put me down harder than I’d ever been before, less than 16 months after this day of desperation. God, You are good! You are faithful!

Redeeming Heartache, Restoring Hope

Ongoing Heartache:

We’ve taken six trips to an out-of-state children’s hospital, in seven months. Our daughter has been under general anesthesia three times in the past five months. She has had two major surgeries, each followed by several days of inpatient recovery.

I’m in the midst of medical testing for something that probably is not a HUGE deal. Yet it “could be” as serious as cancer. I’ve gained 40 pounds in 10 months, all while trying to eat fairly carefully. As a result, nearly my entire closet is painfully uncomfortable or simply doesn’t fit at all.

I’ve been justifying many concerning symptoms to myself, all year. It currently seems likely that thyroid gland that is aging out of happiness (thanks doc, I feel old now). The more stroked side, but only that left side, at the base of my throat, has become a large lump.  We drew a bunch of blood work this week. (I should have received digital results yesterday, if normal, but did not. The office confirms that they have received the results. So now I wait for the doctor to call.) I will have an ultrasound of my thyroid and the lymph nodes in my neck, next week.

Life is Hard, but God is good!

I know this is only a season. It’s been a long season indeed. Chronic illness, infertility, business loss, failed adoptions, miscarriages, financial struggles, another’s incompetence leading to my injury and strokes, marriage difficulty, church family losses, grueling years or therapy and rehabilitation, family health disasters, job struggles, coming face-to-face with childhood pain, and the list goes on…

Yet, in the midst of the trials, there has been much blessing. The gifts of living children added to our family, amazing friends, God’s constant provision with never a day lacking food on our table or a roof over our heads, a published book, access to quality medical care when needed (not always when wanted, nor how desired, but always according to God’s riches), restored marriage, a wide assortment of wise Bible teachers who have spoken into our lives, and this list also continues much longer than a single blog post could ever allow.

We have never been aware of God’s presence more than we are right now!

Yes, there are trials, but compared to where our family was emotionally, even a year ago, we are healing and growing. God is carrying us through!

If you followed my old InfertilityMom blog, you may remember our flood damage saga. It took a little over 14 months, but we finally have a floor, wall, and mantel again!

Restoration

We still have a few details to finish up as we restore our damaged house, but I’m actually in no hurry to clean up the last few projects. Now that the BIG messes and losses are gone, the little things actually make me smile. They are a visible reminder that God’s still working on me, bringing hope, healing, and deliverance to my family. Seeing the huge hurdles get overcome, has left me confident that the loose ends will eventually be put to right too, in our physical home, and in our family!

 

6 1/2 years

This evening, 6 1/2 years back, I was in the Emergency Room with a migraine headache. I had been fighting it for over a week, had seen my primary doctor, received two pain shots, and was still hurting. (I had experienced several migraines lasting 20-30 days in the past, due to messed up hormones, so we were far from our “worst case scenario” yet.) 

My doctor sent me to ER because I was tired of trying to tough out the pain. I had been hospitalized less than two weeks prior, due to suspected heart-related symptoms, that turned out to be pancreatitis (unrelated to this headache). I was tired, done with pain, on overload, ready for a break. Relief, please!

My primary care office took my recent struggles into account and felt I could use more assistance in overcoming this headache than I typically asked for.  My hubby dropped everything at work, to join me at the hospital for the second time in two weeks. (In 25+ years of marriage, he’s made it to nearly every hospital trip I’ve needed to take, even if I’ve only been there a few hours).

Because I had rarely bothered to take one of my horrid migraines to ER, I didn’t quite know what to expect. ER gave me heavy-duty, hospital-supervision-only, pain meds, quickly followed by steroids, when I had an allergic reaction to the pain medication. They then conducted an extensive neurological evaluation, including a CaT scan, just to rule out anything that shouldn’t be happening, like a brain tumor or an impending stroke.

In the end, I was sent home with a fully clean bill of health, other than a migraine that still was not relieved (thanks to aforementioned allergic reaction).  My head, heart (thanks to testing less than two weeks prior), and arteries all looked fantastic. I had no determinable risk of impending stroke.

About 18 hours later, my husband was called away from work once again, this time to race the ambulance to the regional stroke center, praying his 39-year-old wife would still be alive by the time he got there. (Had we had the opportunity to pursue a lawsuit, the fact that my arteries were sound the prior evening, that I was seeking chiropractic care for the common complaint of migraine and had no stroke risk upon entering the chiropractor’s office, would have certainly come into play in trial testimony.) If you wish to read the story of what happened 6 1/2 years ago tomorrow morning, I’ve detailed it at JenniferSaake.com/stroke/.

This morning I texted my dear friend, Kendra, who stroked a little over 5 1/2 months after I did. When she hit her 6-year mark a little over a week ago, the anniversary hit her harder than expected. I knew she would totally understand this mornings emotions. “Tomorrow is my half year mark. No idea why the emotions of these landmarks can still catch me by such surprise and trip me up.”

The thing is, I’m (finally) ever-so-thankful to still be here, blessed to be engaged in the life of my family. We are relearning to embrace life and experience joy again. I still have notable deficits, but at 6 1/2 years out, I’ve gained back far more than what remains lost. I’m a living, breathing, walking, talking miracle! If anyone gets how many “will never”s God has absolutely blown out of the water with my life, it is me.

Yet, as Kendra replied concerning these anniversaries and the unanticipated emotions they stir up, “They are such wonky days, for sure.”

My Chiropractic Stroke Story

I was 39. I was a devoted stay-at-home mom, schooling my three after-infertility miracle young children, ages 5, 8, and 11.  We had been together nearly 24/7, every day of their lives. A week with grandparents a few times, my time in the hospital giving birth to younger siblings, our oldest away for 5 days at camp once, a few hours apart each week in separate Sunday school classes, AWANAS, Bible study, and homeschool co-op classes, this had been the extent of our time apart over the course of their years.

Our health insurance had just started offering chiropractic care, a service I had frequently received in my teens. I had missed having back or neck adjustments over the prior decade, but now that chiropractic was an affordable option again, I had been doing my research and knew who I wanted to go see.

When the familiar symptoms of a migraine hit and stretched on for over a week (hormonal imbalances often triggered migraines lasting 20 or 30 days, so while this 10-day headache was frustrating and debilitating, it was well within my “normal” parameters), I started making phone calls.

The lady I wanted to see had no openings for several days, so when I found a guy with an appointment time free that same morning, the desire for immediate relief exceeded my devotion to my preferred provider, so I took his available slot.

I walked into his office on my own power. I did not take another independent step for nearly a year.

He asked about 30-seconds of my medical history, then asked me to lay down on his treatment table. He took my head in his hands and adjusted my neck one direction. We heard and felt the small pop of the air releasing between vertebra, like when you pop your knuckles, that often happens during a neck adjustment.

Then he rotated my neck the other direction.

Nothing.

No sound. No re-alignment. No relief.

“You are too tense. Just relax. Trust me,” he coaxed, as he held my head in his hands.

A second try.  A little more aggressive. A faster thrust. A longer stretch of my neck.

Still nothing.

“Wow. You sure are hypermobile,” he commented.

Hypermobile? That was a new term for me. All my life I’ve been flexible, “double jointed” even. I can do cool bendy tricks with my body.

So can my mom. And my daughter. So could my great grandma. No one had ever commented on any medical significance in this trait.

As a result of the strokes, deep genetic testing was preformed, and all currently known genetic markers of hypermobility syndromes, like the only variant of EDS linked to vascular fragility and premature rupture, all came back negative.  [Further genetic testing may provide additional answers. Advancements have not yet found the gene responsible for whatever I do have, currently labeled as hEDS, meaning I fit the symptomatic criteria, via hypermobility, for one of the 6 or 7 known forms of the hypermobility disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome -Vascular being the only one in the EDS family linked to premature organ rupture and fragile circulatory system – but the gene mutation is not present.]
  • 1. He saw the symptom, and without all that medical research yet having been done, it was incumbent on him to act with caution, presuming I might have a genetic condition that would make me more prone to arterial injury and this known potential complication of neck adjustment.
  • 2. Knowing what we now know, that I do not have vEDS, that leaves us with the problem that what happened to me could happen to anyone! Remember, I walked into his office having no clue that there was potentially anything of medical concern going on, so even if your issue isn’t hypermobility, there may be another contraindication that you have no idea even exists. The only reason I know that he knew there was a concern with me, is because he happened to comment on what he was seeing at that moment, in a chit-chatty, making conversation to try to relax me, kind of way, a statement no other doctor had ever made it the prior 39 years!

Yes, he was using the medical term to describe his observation. What I didn’t know, what I learned later, from several different doctors and physical therapists, was that the single word hypermobility should have immediately put an end to his adjustment attempt. Three different physical therapists have since told me the exact same phrase, that one of the most basic and very first things they are taught about body mechanics in physical therapy school is, “Never EVER attempt to adjust a hypermobile joint!”

I did not know, but his observation should have been his instantaneous red light!

Tries three and four quickly followed, each successively harder and faster than the times before.  I lost count at that point. Four might have been all.

My mom, who was sitting on a chair near my feet, who just about to comment on how rough the adjustment was growing, thinks he tried six times in total. Hypermobile or not, no one’s body is designed to withstand the kind of neck extension she was repeatedly witnessing.

On that final attempt, I felt, and we all heard, a HUGE pop as my cervical spine did finally start to submit to realignment. I looked up into his face with a sigh of relief and immediately commented, “That feels better, but I am so dizzy!

Just that quickly I grabbed for the edges of the treatment table, where I still lay flat on my back, feeling like I was riding a bucking bronco and would be tossed off at any moment.

“Just don’t fall of my table,” he joked, as he turned his back to reach for his activator, still not being fully satisfied with the level of neck re-alignment he had achieved.

My left leg involuntarily kicked toward the ceiling, as if in indignant reply to his making light of my fear. It landed, flopped off the table, feeling as if it would drag my entire body behind.

Thinking I was responding to his joke, my mom picked up my leg and put it back on the table. Before she released my leg, my left arm flailed, a split second before my right joined in, throwing my body into what looked to be a grand mall seizure.

This is so weird! What’s going on? I stifled a confused giggle and simultaneously fought to control my limbs and keep my breakfast in my tummy.

He spun around and cupped my flailing head in his hands once again. “Look at me!” he frantically shouted.

A grey blankness filled my vision. Misty nothingness replaced where I knew his face should have been. “I can’t look at you!”  was my attempted reply, but what came out of my throat was a choking slur of mostly vowel sounds, “Eye at ooc a ooooo.”

My last hazy memory in that office was hearing my mom starting a 911 call…

I do maintain memories of a vivid near death experience that I will share about in its own post.

Rick solicited dozens of cards to be sent to my hospital room.

What I’ve been told was happening here during that time was total unresponsiveness of my unconscious body, an ambulance ride I was not expected to survive, an emergency room who initially presumed they were dealing with a drug overdose, continual vomiting while comatose and emergency intubation to prevent drowning, restraints to keep me from pulling out my many life-stustaining tubes and wires as I became somewhat responsive, 5 1/2 days in an Intensive Care Unit where brain and arterial scans eventually revealed two massive brain bleeds (strokes), in my brain stem and cerebellum, caused by a serious tear in my vertebral artery.

I had to be verbally coached and reminded to breath for several hours, but the intubation tube came out, and restraints came off, around day 3, I believe.

I experienced a milder, 3rd stroke while still in ICU, giving my family quite the scare. That shredded artery worked toward repairing itself, clotted, and threw the clot up into one of my lobes.

My first retained memory of ICU happened on day 4, I think. My mom and husband had been taking turns staying with me around the clock. It was Mom’s shift and it fell to her to explain (AGAIN!) that I was in the hospital because I had suffered “a stroke” (she didn’t even try to explain that it had actually been three stokes by this point, two right on the table and another the previous day).

Poor Mom. She’s confused. Strokes only happen to old people.

The following week in the main hospital neuro unit focused on relearning basic skills like bladder and bowel control, swallowing, and developing enough core strength to sit up, with assistance, in bed. The dizziness was unlike any horror I had ever imagined could even exist. The left side of my body was dead.

My left eye was crossed and paralyzed into pointing at my own nose, meaning vision was so severely double that a few month later, when enough movement had been restored to be down to only 60 degrees out of sync between eyes, my family took me to watch a movie at the theater and I saw two totally separate copies of the big screen, without the images being near enough to even overlap yet.

We did not figure out, for several weeks, that along with legal blindness (doubled vision, severely blurred to the point of not being able to make out the big E on reading charts, devoid of color in my better eye), my left ear was now deaf, too, and the right was muted by 30%. No wonder communication was so challenging, especially when sight, hearing, and touch losses were added to the obvious issues of muscle tone loss preventing clear speech, as well as cognitive word-finding challenges.

After several weeks in a rehab hospital (that my husband had to FIGHT to get me into, twice, since doctors were ready to pack me off to a nursing home to live out the few weeks they expected I might possibly still be able to survive, as a vegetable), three more clot-induced strokes required an ambulance ride back to the regional stroke center, followed by “compassionate care” (not FDA approved, last ditch effort) emergency surgeries.

On Thanksgiving morning, 2011, an amazing doctor placed a heart stent in my vertebral artery to try to stop clotting and prevent further stroking, then went back in for a second surgery to place a second stent later that same morning, as he was very please with the results of the first procedure, but scans showed the damage still extending beyond the scope of just one stent’s ability to cover.

During the post-surgical week of complete hospital bed rest, where I was not allowed to turn my neck in the slightest, some numbness started to dissipate, only to be replaced by excruciating head-to-toe nerve pain on the left side of my body, and the discoveries that both the left side of my jaw (presumed to be from traumatic intubation) and left shoulder (loss of muscle tone needed to hold it in place) had become dislocated.

The week of recovery complete, I was sent back for a few more weeks in rehab to learn to function to my fullest within the confines of my new limitations. I learned wheelchair transfers in and out of vehicles and the restroom, how to shower with all my needed adaptation equipment, dressing myself (ever tried to try shoes one handed?), how to sit up in a dining room chair with arms but no seat belt, how to use utensils and eat with only one semi-functional hand, how to chew and swallow solid foods with a compromised mouth and throat, how to clear my airway or get assistance for help when I choked with every other tiny bite, much work on restoring movement to the paralyzed eye, and endless LAPS and LAPS wildly careening around the therapy gym trying to learn how to use a shopping cart as a make-shift walker.  Against doctors strong preference, I was finally sent home in a wheel chair, just starting to use a heavy-duty, seven-wheeled, specialty walker on occasion and with close adult supervision, just before Christmas.

I was in near-full-time therapy even after I was sent home. For the first several weeks, therapists traveled to me, as I was too medically fragile to leave the house. I had a hospital bed in my living room, but only used it for the first night (defying medical experts who said it would be impossible for me to get in and out of my waterbed, a task that remains challenging even now, but I was determined to conquor) and during day time for a couple weeks.

The kids lived about an hour and a half from our home, with my in-laws, for the first eight months – that was perhaps one of the two hardest parts of our entire stroke experience, seeing my babies only on weekends. The other hard part was how stroke impacted our marriage.

God has repaired much in our relationship, and continues to restore now, but having just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary two months earlier, to becoming special needs caretaker and invalid rather than husband and wife equal partners, was devastating! During the season of about 6-18 months into the recovery process, as more and more severely impaired brain connections rebuilt and I became a very weepy, ANGRY, forgetful, accusatory “mean drunk” (a valid description as it is temporary impairment of the cerebellum, via alcohol, that causes symptoms of “drunkenness” like poor judgement, slurred speech, staggering walk, etc.) we dealt with HOURS of my irrational yelling at Rick:

Every. Single. Night. Months, into years, on end.

I also lost my ability to cry at sad and needed times. Except for any conversation with Rick. Somehow my brain transformed the idea that Rick had always been my “safest person,” into the inability to hold a rational conversation with him, on any subject, even as mundane as the color of the sky, without sobbing hysterically. This went on for about four years.

Tears still don’t come as appropriately or easily as they should, but I can talk with Rick without the constant torrent of leaky eyes and hiccup-y breathing, most days now. For this we are both exceedingly grateful!

Even to this day, laughter is still my default reaction when things are sad, serious, or scary though. The more I love you, the more serious your injury, the more prone I am to laugh long and hard when you are hurt. My family has learned to be gracious in this strange response, for the most part, but as you can imagine, this tendency has led to a myriad of social dilemmas.

During the brain rewiring, angry stage, I asked Rick to leave. By God’s grace, he did not. We held to our vows out of stubborn commitment to the promise we had made to God. There were long stretches of months when it was a grit-our-teeth, physically painful experience to even be civil in public and nearly impossible to be alone in the same room together. There were no romantic notions of love. For several years we didn’t even LIKE each other any more.

The Lord is restoring the years the locusts have eaten. Our marriage will never be the same as what it was before October 25, 2011. It is becoming, and will continue to grow, richer, stronger, more solid, more loving, and yes, even more romantic, than we ever could have imagined. It will never be the same because it is becoming so much more!

Our kids are all in traditional classrooms (the oldest is now in college!) and doing well, academically. Emotionally, every family members was hard-hit by the traumas we survived. Thank you to all the different care providers, of so many different kinds, who have ministered to each member of our shattered family over the years, especially churches, counselors, and friends (like Kathy who has been faithfully helping me relearn to keep house, voluntarily coming to spend a day cleaning and organizing with me, each week or two, for the past six years).

The most commonly asked question is, “Did you sue him?” After many weeks and much council, I became convinced by several friends and family members, especially my amazing Christian hospitalist (doctor overseeing my case and organizing all tests and treatments in my care) at rehab, Monica, that yes, a lawsuit was appropriate and warranted. I came to understand that this was the method our government has set in place to provide for my million and a half dollar anticipated lifetime medical needs (remember, this was still when doctor were anticipating my longest possible survival would be well less than two years).

So we met with a personal injury attorney and set the wheels in progress, only to encounter two major issues. 1. He did not carry insurance (most state do not require malpractice insurance for chiropractors, so he had opted out of his). 2. He left the country, thus U.S. jurisdiction.

That was the end of any hope for financial restitution.

Since Jennifer’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 were initially estimated to cost between $1- and $1.5- Million in Jennifer’s lifetime, but since she has already well outlived the life expectancy she was given, could easily grow much higher), 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.

Selling tires up in Canada now, he is no longer practicing chiropractic. Legally he could have moved back to Reno after just 12 months and my statute of limitations would have been expired, so he technically had the right to begin practicing chiropractic here once again, at that point. While I had no legal recourse as far as financial compensation, I did file a complaint with the Nevada state chiropractic board and his Nevada license was permanently revoked. He could still apply for a license in any of the other 49 starts in this country, or in any other, but my guess is that watching my stoking face, watching that left eye migrate into its locked position against my nose, is a sight that lives on in his nightmares and will prevent him from ever again preforming a neck manipulation.

If he ever reads this post, what I want him to know is that Jesus Christ, the one and only God in flesh, knowing I was beyond restitution, loved me so much that He purposefully died in order to bring me in a right relationship with Himself. Does this mean all these realities didn’t happen, don’t still impact our lives? No. It means that if God has forgiven me at such great cost, I have no right to do less, to hold this against you, to wish for you any less than the same eternity God has purchased, by His very blood, for you. As my daughter put it simply, the unforgivable has been forgiven.

I still don’t have the cognitive function or quick reflexes needed to safely drive, so no license yet, though this is one of my long-term hopes. I still use a cane when out in crowds. I still rely on regular water aerobics to maintain muscle tone and function (I hit physical regression and symptom relapse within as little as one or two missed classes).

But I am seriously hoping that the book I had just started writing a week before my strokes, Harvesting Hope From Heartache, will finally be ready for publication yet this year. I’m involved in many activities such as my church’s prayer team (am I ever a believer in what we free God to do through our prayers, after all the prayers I know were prayed for me!) and will be starting a Christian writing group here in Reno, Nevada this week. (If you are a local writer, message me on facebook or email Strokie Gal AT gmail Dot com – no spaces and change the appropriate words to symbols – for information on weekly Life Writer meetings, starting this Friday at 1.)

Life is different, but dawn is rising and I’m learning to sing (metaphorically, my voice is still reeling from stoke damage, in case you are trying that sentence in the literal/physical sense) again.

There is so much more I could share about my personal experiences those first two months, or the six+ years since, but this post is already quite long.

9 months later

Instead, let me leave you with a few links:

  • Statement from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, concerning strokes and cervical manipulative therapy (CMT), that concludes, in part, “Cervical artery dissections (CDs) are among the most common causes of stroke in young and middle-aged adults.”
  • Chiropractic’s Dirty Secret: Neck Manipulation and Strokes stating, “Chiropractors would like you to believe that the incidence of stroke following neck manipulation is extremely small. Speculations exist that the risk of a serious complication due to neck manipulation are somewhere between one in 40,000 and one in 10 million manipulations. No one really knows, however, because (a) there has been little systematic study of its frequency; (b) the largest malpractice insurers won’t reveal how many cases they know about; and (c) a large majority of cases that medical doctors see are not reported in scientific journals…” [For example, my story was never reported for any legal or medical statistical collection, due to privacy laws!]

Sadly, the general mindset of many (most?) chiropractors is that there is no risk, that any association between CMT and stroke is a myth. (Seriously, do your own search on “chiropractic stoke” and you will find the word “myth” tied to it a LOT. Hmmm – I guess I just imagined my life and my family’s world being turned upside down because of neck manipulation then???) This video arrogantly explains an adjustment from the chiropractic perspective (assuring you why it is so safe and telling you all the reasons why it is the patient’s fault and not possibly the manipulation that causes a stroke) and goes so far as to say any link between an adjustment of the neck and stroke is just another “urban legend.”

According to the, now inactive, Chiropractic Stroke Awareness Group web page, “1-to-3 people each working day in the United States have a stroke caused by chiropractic, or 260-to-780 people each year, or 2,600-to-7,800 per decade.” Having talked with thousands of stroke victims, hundreds stroking during or immediately following chiropractic adjustment, and understanding first hand why accurate statistics are not easily obtained, I tend to believe these numbers, collected by a group of patients interactive with other patients, to be fairly accurate.

So no, chiropractic stroke it is not terribly common, but not surprisingly uncommon either, literally an every day occurrence. When you become that “one,” the fact that it does sometimes happen, whether it is one in 5 or 10 million, or 1 in 20 (as one estimation I read speculated) or 40 thousand, becomes much more pertinent than the being comforted by the low likelihood!

More videos telling similar stories of vertebral dissection leading to stroke after a chiropractic adjustment, sometimes even with fatal endings, are documented on the Chiropractic Stroke channel on Youtube, including actor Kevin Sorbo’s (stroked after a chiropractic adjustment, while staring as Hercules in the t.v. series) story. Last year model Katie May died and the coroner’s report directly stated her death was due to stroke via chiropractic neck adjustment! (I didn’t add any links only because of where she modeled, but if you really want to know, her story is an easy search.)

Leave me a comment please (but play nice and don’t spam, please – last time I posted this story, I got slammed by a few chiropractors and their fans – remember, I was once a fan too – and flooded with a whole bunch of herbalists claims to cure stroke). Yes, the comment box exists, you just need to scroll down a bit to find it. 😉

My Darkest Darkness

I’ve been blogging for more than a dozen years, but since this is a new blog, you may be a new reader. Even if you have known me personally for decades, you likely don’t know this about me.

*DEEP BREATH*

The single-most intense part of my past year, really of my entire life, has been coping with some deep-seated trauma from childhood, that has negatively impacted me for over four decades. This finally came to bear a little over a year ago, in ways that required immediate and intensive help. Thanks to the ministry of Hope Preserved, I am a changed, free woman today.

The abuses that transpired on the mission field in Asia, God has stepped in and dramatically healed. Every part of my life has been transformed, from how I relate to the ongoing limitations of my strokes (allowing God room to bring about several significant physical healings in my body in 2018, added to all He had already done in 2017; and grace to live to the fullest in areas where limitations yet remain), to my views on of self and pleasing God, like headcovering (a practice I no longer observe).

What was done to me when my parents were targeted by the enemy, was done “in the name of worship.” This abuse has messed with my head and heart for decades. I finally know, deep down in the deepest parts of my heart, that I am a daughter of King Jesus. I am learning what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.

Back in December or January, I left this review on the Hope Preserved  introduction video:

A year ago, I likely would have rejected this video. But, by God’s profound grace, I’ve lived the truth and freedom presented here over the past 10 life-changing months! I went from not even understanding the concept of “parts” of my soul, to actively seeing how my silent, but shattered, pieces, had been profoundly impacting me, and thus my family, for over 40 years. Thank you Hope Preserved, for walking me through this journey as Jesus brings profound healing and freedom to my life. – Jennifer Saake, author, http://strokeofgrace.blogspot.com/2017/05/core-deep-lies.html

There were three  core-deep lies that the enemy has shouted to my heart since childhood:

1. I am not beautiful/acceptable/pleasing to God or others. I am “less than,” never good enough.

2. No one will ever believe me. I’m a drama queen. I’m a good story teller. I’m just making this up.

3. I must be broken to be a viable witness. It is my responsibility to “steward” and shoulder my story well, that it may bring glory to my Father. That to be “useful” to God’s kingdom, means “being used” by God in the same way I was used and abused in infancy.
Jesus has replaced these with Truth:
1. God loves me, calls me by name, delights over me. I am His jewel, His treasure.
Through all I have endured, He has never left me alone. At the bottom of a deep, dark well, He is my Living Water. I can trust both my past and my future to Him. I am more than enough because He imparts His value to me, His beloved daughter. God does not leave me without help, without hope, but desires relationship with me.
2. Jesus is the Truth. I am not a Drama Queen, rather a Princess of the Most High God!  He has confirmed my story in countless ways, and continues to do so even now. Yes, He has honed the craft of story telling within me, not so I can flourish in fiction, but so that His story can be displayed in the unique way He has crafted only me to share it.
3. Sometimes healing takes time – this is to my benefit that I continue to bring my brokenness to the Lord, that I don’t get my way and forget to keep coming to Him. He makes all things new. Jesus came to bind up the broken-hearted. He has already caused this lame woman to walk, blind woman to see, deaf woman to hear, all thing doctors never believed could happen for me! He who began a good work in me will be faithful to carry it on to completion.
He will guide me one step at a time, lighting my path for this moment. It is not mine to look into plans He has not ordained for me. He calls me to rest in Him. My striving for perfection and accomplishment, is exhausting and vain. He does not use nor abuse, but is gentle and tenderly carrying me.
This is pretty much all I’m ready to say quite yet.

It has been my “bravest brave” to go public with my “darkest darkness” and even share this much publicly yet. Yes, we are talking events from over 40 years ago, but we are talking healing from less than a year ago, in some cases, just several weeks ago. The process is still fresh. I’m still settling into my newfound freedom in Jesus.

 

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