Finding Her Voice
Jennifer Yacktman Lynn (BS ’95) grew up singing and dancing her way through life. A former member of BYU Women’s Chorus, a capella groups, and the BYU Ballroom Dance Company, Lynn loved her active, artistic lifestyle. After marrying Mark B. Lynn (BS ’95), she had three kids and was living a full life in Austin, Texas. However, just nine years after her graduation, it all came to a terrible halt.
In 2004 Lynn suffered a massive brainstem stroke, and doctors predicted she would not live through the next day. When Lynn defied the odds and survived the initial trauma, her doctors informed her family that she would be unable to move or talk for the rest of her life.
Surviving “was a mixed blessing,” Lynn recalls. “I was alive, but doctors encouraged my family to remove me from life support because they believed it was not possible to have quality of life [if] I was mentally aware but trapped in my body.”
Unable to move for three months, Lynn’s mind and spirit, locked inside, remained unaltered. When told she wouldn’t be able to speak again, Lynn summarily rejected the doctor’s prediction and told herself, “I’ll prove them wrong!”
And she has.
Thirteen years later Lynn has made slow but steady improvements. “I had a catheter, feeding tube, and tracheostomy. These were supposed to be [with me] all my life. I got rid of them all. . . . My friends and family worked with me to be able to communicate with a modified sign language. . . . And I began to breathe voluntarily.”
With air passing over her vocal chords, Lynn finally began to recover her speech. “Some days are speech days,” she says. “Other days are silent days.”
Lynn continues to improve. Day by day and week by week, she steadily works to regain her strength. Recent developments include putting food away after dinner and successfully leaning forward without losing her balance.
As a wife and mother of three children, Lynn’s normal routine was altered drastically. Rather than managing day-to-day household tasks, she had to rely on family members and friends to assist her. She admits, “Letting go of controlling the way laundry was done, how my kids were dressed, or what I looked like was very painful. I needed to learn to simplify my life and let go of things that were not important.”
At the time of Lynn’s stroke, her children, then ages 2, 4, and 6, all greatly depended on their mother. “[After the stroke] I feared that I would not be a good mother, but in many ways I became a better mom. Before my stroke I was busy trying to be the perfect mom and was sometimes so busy that I was not available for my kids for what they really needed. After my stroke, I was always available and gave full attention because that is all I could give. They had hours of my undivided attention and plenty of snuggle time. . . . What I could do was more important than the superficial things that I could no longer do.”
Lynn eventually developed the ability to move about the house in her wheelchair, reheat food, and use a computer. She even posts regularly to a blog about her trials and successes.
Lynn sees how her family has grown together despite her health challenges. “My husband has stayed by my side and not only helped to raise our children but when my testimony faltered, he is the one who buoyed me up. He has helped me emotionally and physically as I continue to recover. It has strengthened my faith in God and in Christ’s Atonement. . . . I have become closer to my family and the Lord in ways I may never have done without this experience in my life.”