Category: Faith

Life

My strokes happened 6 years, 10 months ago, during a chiropractic neck manipulation, in Reno, Nevada, USA. On October 25, 2018, we will hit my 7-year “re-birthday” or stroke-a-versary.

I initially started my “Stroke of Grace” blog with the several-times-per week, weary detailing of the early years of my catastrophic stroke recovery journey. As I’ve gotten farther and farther away from the moment-by-moment shock and anguish of being plunged from able-bodied, into instantly trying to survive while being considered medically too fragile to sustain life, my blogging has become more infrequent, but has progressively focused less on stroke realities and more on the great grace God has been unveiling through the process. I’ve moved from primarily focusing on physical deficits, to my own name-based domain where I share many aspects of life, in anticipation of future book projects.

This week it occurs to me that I haven’t given my physical therapists, nurses, doctors, other stroke survivors, and families of Strokies, a very recent look into post-stroke realities. This post isn’t meant as a “downer,” but is an intentional attempt to contextualize the Grace aspect of my posts, against the ongoing physical struggle of post-stroke life. For those looking to hear about weight, hair, pain, eyes, ears, walking, exercise / therapy, emotions, family, ongoing upkeep, and a sample week, here you go!

Weight:

In 2010 and 2011 (pre-stroke) I was intentionally working hard at loosing the 40 pounds I weighed heavier than my medically prescribed “ideal” for height /age / gender. While I have faced a, sometimes highly debilitating, chronic illness since my teens, I did NOT smoke, drink, do drugs, take birth control pills, or engage in any behavior that put me at risk for heart attack or stroke. Those 40 pounds were my biggest health enemy, so I was safely and steadily whittling them away. As a late 39th birthday gift to myself, I bought a lovely leather jacket in my ideal size. I had been eyeing it for months, but waited to make the investment in celebration of that accomplished weight loss goal.

I had little time, a week I think, to enjoy the jacket while it fit properly. I soon was on a feeding tube and RAPIDLY loosing weight. It was estimated that my body was initially burning about 5,000 calories a day, just to sustain life in the face of such massive brain injury. As we transitioned to oral food, my regular meals were supplemented with 6 Boost-laden, full-fat, ice cream shakes per day. By the time I left the hospital around Christmas, I was about 20-pounds UNDER weight and the new leather jacket hung limply on my skeletal frame. (Since I couldn’t coax my left arm into a coat sleeve anyway, I wasn’t initially very aware of this loss.)

Gradually brain function stabilized and caloric requirements reduced. Since I had so much ground to regain, I keep those early eating patterns the hospital had trained me to develop. I gained back that lost 20 and kept right on going, also regaining my hard-fought 40 pound loss. Since my energies went to sleep and therapy, I focus little on the “vanity” of numbers on a scale.

Around 2014 – 2016, I began to put some thought back into food choices and prevented further gain, even whittling away at the excess weight again. By early July, 2017, I was nearing my goal range of 125-133. I was at 134 one week, and one a dime, GAINED 15 pounds within 10 days.

Since we were traveling, and I was indulging in soda (not part of my normal diet), I thought this sudden jump must be a combination of fluid retention from air flight, and short-lived poor eating choices that would soon reverse. However, within about 13 months, I pack on a total of 45 pounds, breaking my all-time highest weight record (far heavier than my highest pregnancy weight).

This brings us within a few weeks of today. After seeing my primary care provider, specialists in several different fields, and running huge batteries of tests, the conclusion is that my thyroid and other functions seem fairly stable. A nutritionist and bariatric (weight) doctor are now coaching me. The current working theory is that I had still been taking in between 2,000 – 3,000 calories on an average day. Most individual food choices were of excellent quality, I was just so messed up in my perception of hunger and intake verses calorie expense, that, upon aging (I turned 45 the month I started rapidly gaining), and with continued brain connection improvement reducing energy fuel needs, that something flipped in my body’s inability to cope with so much extra nutrition.

I’m now keeping a food log of every single thing I eat or drink, measuring portions and recoding everything. (MyFitnessPal, an app I tried to understand a few years back but still couldn’t quite grasp yet, has been the best tool in this round of this fight!) Without factoring in my twice-a-week water therapy, my body seems to burn around 1,400 – 1,450 calories per day right now, so my current daily goal range is to consume between 1,200 – 1,400 calories daily. I have already lost a little weight even during these first couple highly stressful weeks I’ve been starting to pay attention to these numbers. (My plan is to start logging in earnest next week, when my schedule becomes more predictable again.)

I have no significantly changed my fluid intake pattern, but by charting everything we have discovered that I typically drink two to three times the average daily recommended 64 ounces. My doctor says that for many people this would be a problem, throwing off electrolytes and dangerously diluting various needed elements in the body, but that my levels are exactly where they need to be, so I should keep listen to my body’s accurate fluid demands.

Fun Facts: Altoids Arctic mints are 5 calories. A stalk of celery is 6 calories, and your body uses 1 calorie to digest it, for a net gain of 5 calories.

This Week:

The past week has been pretty intense.

A week ago Thursday, found me at the eye doctor with a sudden onset of a painfully crusty infection that required two different kinds of antibiotic drops and gel, treatments 5 times a day, through Tuesday. I guess this is the result of all the massive west coast wildfires and how my eye, with a still profoundly effected tear duct, reacted to the prolonged on slot of smoke allergies.

The swelling and eye infection wasn’t clearing up quite as fast as it should have been, but I started mega doses of steroids on Monday (in preparation for my year MRI and CT scans on Wednesday) and the eye infection responded beautifully to the steroids and was totally clear by Tuesday!

Wednesday I took 167 mg (starting dose is 4 mg) of Prednisone and mythelPredniSolone within 13 hours, YUCK!!! Plus 50 mg Benadryl. I then went and did the tests and got “fun” contrast dye pumped into my veins. I think the CT tech thought I was being over dramatic when I winced and cried out as he pushed the dye, but I felt a little validated when that particular vein was visibly bruised on Thursday, showing clear evidence that the IV push had actually been as painful as I had acted!

I had planned on a much longer post tonight, but I will need to hit topics of family, emotions, therapy, walking, eyes, ears, hair, business, writing, and pain, in another post, along with pictures. I’m currently on Benadryl again and too brain-exhausted to type clearly. Tonight, yes, more than 78 hours after testing (but also 14 hours after my final step-down lowest dose of steroids) I went and welted out in hives. *sigh*

Since hubby is out of town, both our adult son and my parents are on stand-by to take me into ER overnight, if needed. I’m praying that Benadryl will kick in, I’ll soon be asleep, and there will be no further need for medical intervention!!!

Yesterday I posted to facebook:

I haven’t slept much since Monday. Tomorrow is last dose of steroids. 
TIRED. OH-SO-EXHAUSTED!

This morning I posted this praise update.

Life:

I was asked Thursday, “If you got offered the reset button for your life, would you push it?”.
My firm reply was simply, “NOPE!”

Later I added, “If you had asked me 2, 3, or 5 years ago, the answer likely might have been different, but now I realize I’m living the best “reset” God perfectly planned for me and I’m so very thankful, now, that I wasn’t given that option then!”

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!

 

Imagine Heaven: Giveaway and Promo Code

For the first couple years after my near death experience, I was so anxious to get to Heaven, that I was suicidal. I felt I should “help God” to get me back There as soon as possible. Compared to that one tiny glimpse of God’s glory, my whole lifetime on this earth, past or future, seemed non-consequential.

Daily, I begged God to drain the intensity from my memories, just so I could manage living here, while better understanding what awaited me There. These infinite concepts are too wonderful for me to rationalize and process within the limiting confines of time.  As one friend’s husband put it, after she relayed the story I shared with her, “It is God’s protection, His grace, that we don’t grasp the reality of Heaven. Every Christian would be suicidal, if we really knew!”

Paul, the human author of much of the New Testament, felt Heaven to be far superior (see Philippians 1:21-23, below) too! The difference was my longing for Heaven was not just a “looking forward” emotion, but a “can’t function here” desperation.

  Quote

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

It took a lllooooooooooooooooooooonnnggg time for me to become convinced that my young family needed me, to get to the place of understanding that if God hadn’t called me Home “when He had the chance,” that it was not my right to thwart His timing by taking my life into my own hands. It took years before I arrived at a certainty of knowing I would remain here for as long as He wanted me to stay.

Just because I am here now, does not mean that thoughts about death never cross my mind anymore, though they are far much less frequent, and the focus has changed, as well as how I process them. When those thoughts come, like in the dark of night, I have learned not to welcome them, not to entertain them, not to ponder or dwell on them, but to instead take them captive, straight to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Because I am convinced to re-engage into my family’s life, I was delighted when my 12-year-old invited me on a date to watch a movie together, over his school spring break, earlier this month. He picked the day and place, I picked the time and show. I chose the life story of Mercy Me‘s lead singer, Bart Miller, songwriter of the runaway hit, I Can Only Imagine.

Bear (what we have called our youngest, since birth) was deeply moved by Bart’s story. My pre-teen was especially mesmerized by the way Bart, at about his own age, began finding journaling to be a healing exercise, how Bart created a record of God’s amazing grace throughout his life. My son was in awe when I showed him the 16 hard-bound journals that lined the top of our bookshelf, chronicling our decade journey to parenthood. He has taken up journaling as a result.

It was fun to be able to give Bear the I Can Only Imagine refillable leather notebook, in order to begin to create his own library of prayers, thoughts, and questions and start to see the pattern of God at work in his life. His young heart needs to process much, as he continues to unpack the trauma that shattered his world six and a half years ago, and sorts through the emotional journey middle school creates.

I love that the leather binding will last Bear for decades, while the 128-page interior notebook is replaceable, so that he can chronicle paper notebook, after notebook, without using up this fantastic journal, nor creating the storage crisis my writing habit did. My son was stunned to be entrusted with such an adult treasure, handcrafted in Haiti. Each notebook is unique and helps to support sustainable and dignified employment.

This summer, Bear and I will together explore the I Can Only Imagine 4-Episode Video Series, featuring Bart sharing his personal testimony, containing select scenes from the movie we so enjoyed (and watched before this review opportunity presented itself – in fact I only took the opportunity to explore this package because the movie had been so powerful to us), each episode is approximately 12 minutes.

Along with the video, we’ll be exploring the companion  28-day study of Jesus’s life and ministry (that can serve as a video series participant’s guide for your small group, or be effective as a standalone study). Bear and I will embark on a journey through the Gospels to discover Jesus’ encounters with broken people. Each day will include scripture, reflective questions, and prayer—all working together to reveal God’s incredible heart for us. We are excited! Click on this banner to enter to win your own copy of this study journal:

Yes, I did receive free products from FrontGateMedia and CityOnAHillStudio, from the I Can Only Imagine line, in exchange for sharing my genuine opinions. Click on this link and use Promo Code: frontgate10 for 10% off the I Can Only Imagine Series and/or Journal for yourself!

As I watched the movie, I was blessed to realize, 6 1/2 years and close to 100-counseling-hours later, God has answered my prayers, softening my memories to the point that they almost feel “second hand” now, like an experience someone else told me about. It does not feel as if I am going crazy anymore. I no longer live fighting the weight of a wonder too great to process. My soul is finally peaceful concerning Heaven, because now, I can only imagine. Thank you Lord!

Once again, the giveaway link is blessedfreebies.com/indescribablestudygiveaway.html

And the the promotional code is: frontgate10 for 10% off the I Can Only Imagine Series and/or Journal from cityonahillstudio.com/shop-3/i-can-only-imagine/

What’s In A Name?

“Your Dad’s name for you is Fer? Yeah, that’s got to be the lie!”

We were playing Three Truths and A Lie, the get-to-know-you group game where every person share four short and unlikely “facts” about themselves. Each member of group then makes their best guess to pick out the one fictional story in the mix.

They unanimously picked the first fact I shared, to label as mythical.

“Nope. Mom calls me Jenni, and Dad calls me Fer. That’s been 100% true of their in-private nicknames for me, for as long as I can remember!”

I love my Daddy. I love that I’ve had a special nickname from him.

Given those two choices, however, I ever-so-thankful that it was Mom‘s name that stuck with the rest of the world! For decades, I’ve gone by the name “Jenni” to all who have known me in person, even online, if you’ve known me well at all.

“Jennifer” was reserved for business ventures. It was a quick give-away when I answered the phone to a “Jennifer” request, that I would be talking to a stranger, likely a medically-related call. I occasionally got “Jennifer” letters too, often about my book, but from my first reply as “Jenni,” the formality I equated as comparable to “Mrs. Saake” was quickly dropped.

This all changed in January of this year.

After a lifetime of loss, I found myself again. Rather, God found me and put me back together again.

I realized, through counseling, that most of my worst memories were as unseen as my Dad’s name was unheard. These were my realities alone, and even though the evidence was there, even those who knew me best, had little idea of these unseen and unheard parts of my everyday life.

So, in a grace-drenched decision, I announced that God had been gracious (meaning of the name “Jenni” when I dug back far enough) to carry me through these decades of brokenness, and I am now closing that chapter of pain. God has restored my full identity, and in celebration of this fact, I’m slowly asking friends to honor this renewal by transitioning to my full name, “Jennifer” (meaning, among other things, blessed).

When I say this is a grace-soaked transition, I mean no one is to get tense, hyper, nor upset over slipping into old habits. Friends call me “Jenni, I mean Jennifer. Sorry!” often when I wouldn’t have even caught the problem myself. My ears are used to “Jenni,” so at times “Jennifer” sounds (or reads, in type) foreign still to me.

I am re-learning how to introduce myself. It’s socially acceptable to say. “Hi. I’m Jennifer. You may call me Jenni.” “Hi. I’m Jenni. Please call me Jennifer,” is a little awkward! My tongue doesn’t always catch the transition of my heart and mind in time. I really stumbled over my first few self-introductions in January and February!

Now, I try my best and when I forget, no big deal.

If I remember, I smile because I remembered. If I forget, I smile because hearing my “mistake” simply reminds me of the specific reason that I want to do it differently, and that I will probably get that chance the next three times I meet this person and apologize with my typical, “I’m sorry I’m so bad at names. I’m Jennifer. Could you please remind me of your name AGAIN?”

Old habits die hard, but in no way cancel my reality! What God has renewed is not broken by a childhood nickname. This “name change,” is simply my declaration of what God has restored. In this I greatly rejoice.

 

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.

 

Why “In Darkness Sing”?

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, confidence in things unseen, according to the Bible, defined in Hebrews 11:1.

 

 

 

Faith has also been described (by many people, in various twists on this basic wording), like a bird who senses dawn approaching, and boldly begins a song to herald the imminent sunrise, courageously singing, even though still plunged in darkness.

I want to be that bird!

In darkness of stress and struggle, I sing out my faith in Jesus Christ, my sure hope. I am confident in my eternal security and comfort because of His shed blood of the cross and bodily resurrection.  – Jennifer Saake

pexels-photo-167964.jpeg

Please come along with me?

I’m just learning this whole WordPress thing. Thank you for your patience as I get my new page all set up. For now, find me here:

Facebook.com/HarvestingHope – My main author page.

StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com – My story of surviving and thriving after six, chiropractor-induced, near-fatal strokes, at age 39. (Also facebook.com/StrokieGal/.)

HarvestingHope.blogspot.com – Stories of struggle and inspiration, and updates concerning my next book.

GivenMeAThorn.blogspot.com – Christians with chronic pain or illness.

HannahsHopeCover

InfertilityMom.blogspot.com – My unfolding experiences in motherhood after a painful decade of longing and loss.

HannahsHopeBook.blogspot.com – Several years worth of archived blog posts offering encouragement for growing your family amidst infertility, miscarriage, or adoption loss. (Active posts may be found at facebook.com/HannahsHopeBook/. )

Pinterest.com/InfertilityMom

Twitter.com/InfertilityMom

Instagram.com/InfertilityMom (I’m just learning Instagram too. Any tips?)

 

I also invite you come explore all the beautiful hair jewelry and accessories I sell at LillaRose.biz/InnerBeauty.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Visit Us On PinterestVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On InstagramVisit Us On Google PlusVisit Us On LinkedinCheck Our Feed