Saturday, January 30, 2010


Brian injured his knee at the outreach basketball game here at Grace Church on Monday night. He went for an MRI today and will have surgery next week Thursday. Once again we are thankful to be here in LA where we can receive good medical care. Please pray for him. The surgery will be with a scope and apparently it's not an intensive procedure. He will however, have to take it easy and has already given us instructions on how he'd like to be pampered and looked after :)
Over these past weeks God has enabled Brian to care for and support us. Pray that the Lord would give my mom and me strength to serve and care for Brian while he recuperates.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Test Results

We received a call from the infectious diseases' doctor this week. The tests for bilharzia and tape worms both came back negative. Remember, apparently for tape worms, a positive can be negative. Who knows why it came back positive in the first place? But the doctors have said that there is nothing to be concerned about. Praise the Lord. We have tried to remind the kids, and certainly ourselves, while going through this trial that we should focus on what God has done and not allow our minds to dwell on things that are not true. We continue to trust that this is the best the Lord has for us right now and pray that He will continue to use this time to mould and shape us for His glory.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


This is Anita-
Wow there is SO much to be thankful for!
I thank God that He drew me to Himself and by His grace has saved me and that no matter what happens in this life, I have hope of eternity with Christ. I also know that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. His ways are perfect. He is in complete control. He is faithful to His promises. His love endures forever. His grace is sufficient.

I remember Rachel saying, while we were in Malawi, "Nothing surprises God."

"Blessed be the Lord because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him." Psalm 28:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:6-7

We are still waiting for test results. Thankful to you for your prayers on our behalf.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Worms or No Worms?

Here is a link to a news story with footage of a Pork Tape Worm being surgically removed from someone's brain:

I need to tell you that right now doctors DON'T think Anita has a Pork Tape Worm in her brain.

Even though she has been experiencing strange seizures, and she still has problems with balance, and she has tested positive for Pork Tape Worms, they don't think there is a worm in her brain because they say it would have shown up on the MRI. They also say (as I wrote in the last post) that sometimes people test positive to Pork Tape Worms that don't really have Pork Tape Worms. This is why they took blood yesterday for a duplicate test (and we should know the results in about a week).

All that being said, I would like to ask you to pray earnestly that God would help the doctors to accurately and definitively diagnose Anita before we head back for Africa (right now, we are thinking the middle of March). Also, please pray for God to completely heal Anita - if not supernaturally, then through the excellent medical treatment we have already been receiving.
Ultimately, please pray that God is glorified as we trust Him through this trial. He knows our desires but first and foremost we pray, "Thy will be done." While we pray that, we also know that prayer is the means that God often uses to accomplish His will. So please continue to pray.

Physically, Anita is doing better than she was a week ago and much better than two weeks ago. We are grateful for that and we find it is much easier to be patient when recovery appears to be evident. Daily, she still experiences headaches and dizziness and says, "I just don't feel right." But we are also enjoying some sweet times with Anita's mom and our kids as we all try to rest up and prioritize our lives.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Positive may be Negative

We had a follow-up appointment with some UCLA doctors today and in our minds we were thinking, "okay, let's get rid of these tape worms." The doctors recommended that we run a second set of blood tests before treatment because sometimes positive test results can be false.

While they are at it they are going to test for Bilharzia because it is so common in Malawi. We thought that they already tested Anita for that, but apparently not.

What this means for us is that we will need to wait a week or two for the results and they wanted to see us in three weeks for a follow-up to our follow-up exam.

One doctor reminded us today that even modern medicine can't explain everything. It can, however, rule out major cause of the seizure-like episodes Anita went through. At the end of the day we are content not knowing exactly what caused them and we are extremely grateful that Anita continues to feel better each day.

She still experiences headaches and dizziness on a daily basis, but they do seem to be decreasing in intensity. She is also still weak (probably weaker than she realizes). We find great comfort in the fact that God knows exactly what is going on and we rest in the knowledge that He has a purpose for all of this.

We still look forward to return to our home in Malawi. Mid-March is still the target date for that. Thanks again for praying.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Good days

Anita has been progressing for the past six days and today was a great day. Still no more episodes -- thanking our sovereign Lord for answered prayers. We are praying that our visit on Thursday to the UCLA infectious diseases' doctor in Santa Monica will get the worm(s) sorted out. Bradley asked Anita today "Mom, why do you eat worms?"
The children are doing well. Ami is doing fine so far, in her Kindergarten class. Brad and Benja have been attending the nursery groups at Grace Church on some of the days during the week. They have enjoyed that very much. Allison started crawling when Anita was in the hospital so we missed that :(
She is still waking up once at night (when daddy is on duty). Anita's mom has adjusted to the time difference really well and is a delight to have around here. We shall let you know what the doctor says. THANK YOU so much for your continued prayers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Diagnosis: Infectious Disease

We received a call today from the UCLA Medical Center. Some of the tests from the Infectious Disease specialists have taken a while to get back. The news we got today was that one of the tests came back POSITIVE for "cysticercus antibodies" (pork tape worms).

We almost couldn't believe it! For one, I had joked in an earlier post that the Hollywood ending to Anita's condition would be doctors pulling out a 27 foot tape worm and her getting better instantly (see "Diagnosis of Exclusion" posted on January 8th). Another reason it was hard to believe is because Anita hardly ever eats pork (especially the pork we get in Malawi. I have often heard her say "That looks a bit dodgey"). Thirdly, if anyone should have a tape worm from eating "dodgey" meat it should be me (or maybe Bradley, for eating that mouse - If you haven't seen it, click here: ). Now we are thinking that perhaps we should de-worm the whole family.

Another reaction we had was one of thankfulness. We are thankful that UCLA was able to find this and that it is treatable. We are thankful that we were here in California to deal with the seizures and get tested. We are thankful that we can extend our furlough to help recuperate from all of this. We are grateful for all those who have ministered to us during this time and especially for those who have prayed.

There is a possibility that this is what has been causing the seizures. One UCLA doctor told us today that cysticercus can cause seizures if it is found in the brain. However, they should have seen it in the scans if it were in the brain. At the least, this is just one more thing that has been straining Anita's body (the appendicitis, hernia operation, pregnancy, travel, looking after 4 kids, and add to that a tape worm).

In any case, we will be glad to get this treated.

Please continue to pray for Anita. She has had no seizures over the past three days (and we are so thankful for that). But she has been experiencing lots of dizzy spells and headaches. She is also still quite weak. We have an appointment to see an Infectious Disease specialist next Thursday (Jan. 21st) in Santa Monica. Please pray for that as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Looking Up!

Things are looking up around the Biedebach home. On Monday, I took this picture of Ami in her new school uniform on her first day of school (ever). Since she has only known her mom as her teacher, it has been quite an adjustment. A bit of nervousness, a lot of excitement, new friends, new routine, but all in all, Ami is enjoying this transition - and for that we are grateful.

We are also grateful for another good day for Anita. No seizures or episodes today (yeah!). She is still very weak and has a lot of convalescing ahead of her but things seem to be looking up.

Again, we ask for your continued prayer. It has been a steady source of encouragement and strength for us and we believe God has used many faithful prayers to help pull us through this trial thus far. We have found great comfort this week that no matter what the outcome is, God is all knowing, all loving, all powerful, and He orchestrates everything for our benefit and His glory. Even trials benefit us, because we learn to trust Him more. Even suffering can bring glory to God because ultimately there is nothing that can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39) and no trial will compare with the glory a genuine believer will one day receive (Romans 8:18).

Tonight, I was lying on the carpet with baby Allison just before (6 year-old) Ami went to bed. She came in and asked me, "Daddy, what does it mean to trust?" It was one of those sweet moments you pray for as a parent. She stood there in her pajamas and I said to her, "Stand straight up, close your eyes, and fall towards me - I will catch you." She did it, and I caught her. She laughed with joy and wanted to do it again and again and again. A couple of times she caught me off guard and I nearly missed her. Once she tried it and saw that I wasn't looking and she caught herself before she landed on me. I said to her, "When you catch yourself by putting your foot down first, its because you don't 'trust' that I will catch you. I may not always be there to catch you, but no matter what the circumstances are like around you - who can you trust?"

She knew the answer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Road to Recovery

After our diagnosis for Anita’s “non-epileptic seizures” here are some guidelines that we have discussed with doctors that should help her reach a full recovery. Already, by implementing some of these guidelines her episodes are becoming less frequent and milder. Today was a great day - she only had one episode (this evening) and it was really mild.

1. No more Appendix – This is the easiest guideline to follow since her appendix was removed on December 18, but I keep this as “rule number one” to remind Anita that she did have an abscessing, hemorrhaging appendix in her body for 9 months and it is going to take some time to recover from that surgery, her hernia surgery, and the birth of Allison.
2. No more travel – at least for two months. We were due to fly back to Malawi on January 15, but our plans are changed now to stay in Southern California for another two months. We would love to be back home in Malawi, but until we have two months of stability in a place with good medical care, it just doesn’t seem wise to travel.
3. No more outings – Anita needs her rest and a night out talking an enjoying others (even though it may be fun) is draining for her body right now.
4. Limited visitors to the home – Anita loves to have visitors, but even that involves some stress. Those who wish to visit can contact Brian and he can help spread them out so that they are not too overwhelming.
5. No more home-schooling – Ami was enrolled in Kindergarten today at Grace Community School.
6. Follow medical instruction - She has practiced breathing techniques to help control and minimize the episodes.
7. No strenuous activities or driving - it has been great to have Anita's mom here to help with the kids and the home. We have also been blessed by two Bible study groups at church who have brought us meals and groceries. How do people in the world get along without a church family?
8. Lots of rest – her body has been under great physical stress for many months and it is telling us that she needs more than just a couple of weeks to recover.
9. Healthy diet – this doesn’t really need to be on the list since Anita is already addicted to anything healthy.
10. “Set your mind on things above…” Routine quiet times in the morning – a busy mom often neglects to begin each day soaking in God’s Word and praying for her dealings that day. I plan to work hard to help her guard these times which she enjoys so much and which are vital for her spiritual and physical health.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sweet Visits

The kids did get to visit their mom once in the hospital. They did really well spending the week away with friends (even little Allison took a bottle well). But we are overjoyed to be back together again (all six of us plus Gran). Please pray that our family can get back into a good routine as we stick around L.A. to let Anita recover.

A special thanks to the Edwards, Taglieres, Nesheims, and Feinbergs who "adopted" our kids for the week while Anita was in the hospital.

Magic Carpet

For years we have joked with Anita's mom (Marlene) that she must have a magic carpet. It seems that way to the family because Marlene is the global grandmother. She is visiting Linda's kids in the U.K. or us in Malawi and sometimes she even joins us while we are on furlough in the U.S.

When Anita's parents heard of the trial she is going through, Anita's dad helped her mom "fire up the magic carpet" (he bought her a plane ticket from Johannesburg to L.A.). She arrived on Friday night and came directly to the U.C.L.A. Medical Center.

We are glad to have "mommy" here now. Anita has been discharged from the hospital and on Saturday we were reunited with our children in the mission house. Anita is beginning to recover. Over the past two days, she has experienced three mild seizures - they are much less intense than the ones she was experiencing in the hospital.

Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray that her diagnosis is correct and that God uses the steps we are taking towards recovery to heal her body. We know that there are many who are following these updates and praying for us - and we believe that prayer is the means that God uses to bring about His will.

This morning I took the kids to church while Anita's mom (a former nurse) stayed home to look after her. While at church, a lady (whom I did not recognize) walked up to me, wagged her finger at me and said, "You said you would update the blog YESTERDAY!" Please forgive me for leaving you all hanging. We value your prayer and feel all of your arms hugging us from afar. We are thankful that Anita's mom is here and thankful for our church family all over the world.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Diagnosis of Exclusion

Today was a good day and we are thankful for a diagnosis that seems very hopeful. Sometimes, when doctors eliminate major options they fall back on explanations which might not be completely satisfying, but are certainly plausible. What are her episodes?

Before we get to that, here is what they are not:

They are not epileptic attacks nor do they seem to be neurologically related to epilepsy. We do not think her condition is related to an infectious disease, nor do we think it is associated with a tumor. It doesn't seem to be related to diabetes or low blood sugar. It is very unlikely that it is related to an allergy, virus, or migraines.

Here is what we do think they are:

The short answer is: "Non-epileptic seizures caused by pain and stress" (but please read on),

They are calling her episodes, "non-epileptic seizures." Anita's are probably related to the pain and stress that her body has been under for nearly a year. Many of you know that she was misdiagnosed in March of 2009 when she was experiencing problems with her pregnancy (at 27 weeks). In South Africa the doctors thought she had tendinitis that was causing sharp abdominal pain but in December we found out that it was a Chronic appendicitis (9 months of chronic appendicitis with 3 acute attacks). On December 18, 2009 Dr. Farid at Holy Cross Hospital removed her appendix and described it as "abscessing, hemorrhaging, inflamed, and tucked behind her cecum." It was as if her body was doing everything it could to keep her appendix together until he removed it. He also found a hernia when he was "fishing around in her abdomen," so he stitched that up while he was in there.

The recovery from surgery was painful but was progressing well. We thought we had a pretty restful couple of weeks since the surgery, but we probably over did it on Sunday, January 3rd. As Anita was gearing up for our return to Malawi (previously planned for January 15), we were visiting people, packing bags, looking after four young kids, home-schooling Ami, and she was breast feeding Allison (another strain on her body). Essentially, she has had a high-stress year and when her body also had to deal with 9 months of a Chronic Appendicitis, a birth, and surgery it said STOP and SLOW DOWN. And the way her body communicated that to us was to seize-up.

I asked several doctors if they had seen this before and at least two doctors cited similar cases that they had personally seen at UCLA Medical Center. While it is rare, it is not unheard of.

The GOOD NEWS is that they expect Anita to be able to fully recover from these so that they don't ever occur. Certain breathing exercises have already helped to reduce their frequency and intensity. Today she has had four mild ones (each lasting only a few minutes) that she has been able to get through quite smoothly. Yesterday (while she was on 24 hour EEG monitoring), she had 8 non-epileptic seizures that were all recorded. They were recorded visually and the electronic brain waves were recorded simultaneously.

I am not sure that this is the way I thought it would end. I suppose I was thinking there would be more of a Hollywood ending where a 27 foot-long tape worm is extracted from her body and she is instantly healed and the missionary family returns to Africa (by boat). At the end of the day, if this is the proper diagnosis, we are overjoyed. There are some tangible steps we can take towards recovery (I'll write more about those tomorrow) and we can rejoice that the battery of tests (EKG's, EEG's, CT scans, MRI's, Lumbar Puncture, and blood tests) have all come back saying she is a healthy 33 year-old woman. We have much to thank God for and ultimately we rejoice in His timing in allowing all this to happen here.

Our lives are His. From a human perspective it doesn't make sense to us why two people who love living and sharing Christ in Africa should be delayed from returning to a place that so many Christians don't really want to live in. But obviously, from His perspective, if we can glorify Him here by slowing down and dealing with this - then we are happy.

We would still appreciate your prayers. There is still the possibility that our current diagnosis is not complete. But in the meantime we are happy to work on the steps to recovery (again, more on those tomorrow).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Medical Survivor

Today has been an eventful day. We have been visited by TEAMS of doctors who specialize in various fields (i.e. - Neurology, Neuro Surgery, Epilepsy, and Infectious Diseases). Each team has a number of options that they think might explain why Anita has been having these seizures. It almost seems like a reality TV competition where each team tries to win by figuring out what is wrong with Anita. the way they do that is by figuring out what is not the problem and then seeing what they have left.

For example, because we have spent so much time in Malawi, the Infectious Disease team wants to test Anita for Malaria, TB, and various parasites. If all their tests come back negative, they have eliminated their strongest suspicions and they are out of the game. If one of the tests comes back positive, then they will look at treatment options and see if that stops the seizures (then I guess they win the game and we are all happy).

Anita has had at least six seizures today. The good news is that the Epilepsy team has glued about 20 wires to her head and has her on electrical and video surveillance. They have recoded the waves from each seizure and at the bottom of their computer screen is a real-time video of Anita going through the seizure. Everything is done through camera (mounted on our ceiling) and computer monitors in our room and other rooms in the hospital. Doctors can even log onto the Internet at home and watch her in real time (no, I don't have the link).

Virtually Here

If you would like to take a virtual tour of the hospital we are in, google these words: "UCLA Medical Center Virtual Tour"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

You See L.A.?

We Do! I just became a UCLA fan. Wow! We arrived at UCLA Medical Center this evening and I have never seen a hospital equal to it. Anita was transported by ambulance and I arrived 2 minutes after her. Soon after we arrived we met with a Neurosurgeon who will be working with the team of doctors that will be trying to diagnose and treat her condition. At 9:45 she had a 4 minute seizure and the doctor was here to see it. They have her on video surveillance 24 hours a day so I feel like I can actually sleep tonight. The room has a couch/bed for me too.

One of the reasons we are here is to have continuous EEG monitoring of her brain which may start tomorrow. Praise God that everything has worked out to get us here. The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is one of the best places in the world for what Anita is going through.

Pray for wisdom for the doctors here. Ultimately we are comforted most by the fact that we know the Great Physician and He knows exactly what is going on. On another level, it is a comfort to know that we are in the best place that this country has to examine her condition. Even if we don't find out the answers it won't be for a lack of looking.

Our desire is to get treatment and stability for Anita so that we can return to Malawi. Naturally, we are postponing our January 15 departure for Malawi. Please pray for wisdom regarding that and for the church in Malawi.


Though we are no longer at Mission Community Hospital in Van Nuys we are very grateful for the care we received there. SOME of those who stand out in our mind are, Dr. Sauer, Chris, Dr. Yuriy, Ana, Lisa, Ric, Avie, Danica, Maggie (especially Maggie), Adryan, Nenita, Nancy, and many many more (sorry for those we didn't mention by name). Though we did not leave with a lot of answers, we left with many clean test results. You guys were efficient, friendly, professional, and we can't thank you enough. Come visit us at Grace Community Church sometime (just down Roscoe Blvd).


Anita's neurologist has recommended that she get transferred to UCLA Medical Center for a higher level of care. We are glad about this, but ask you to pray for the right admitting doctor, an open bed, and a smooth transfer. If all goes well it could happen today.
She had another episode at 9:45am. It lasted 11 minutes. They have put her onto anti-seizure medication. Thanks for praying.

We just got news (4:20pm) that there is a bed available at UCLA. Anita is feeling good. No episodes this afternoon. Praise the Lord. Ambulance transfer at 5:45pm.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Seizure" Number 8

This day has been filled with ups and downs. On the down side Anita had 3 "seizures" today (we are still not sure what to call them because she is conscious during them but loses control of muscles, she often shakes tremendously, and her vision and speech are often (but not always) impaired during them). She had one at 5 AM one at 10 AM and one just tonight at 11:45 PM. On the up side, this has been a sweet time in our marriage. We have never been closer.

I am grateful that I can be with Anita helping her, holding her, praying with her, crying and laughing with her through one of the biggest trials of her life. For both of us to think about what life would be like for the other if either of us were to be gone has made these moments some of the sweetest in our lives. Together we have evaluated what is most important in this life, and for us it is to use our lives to bring glory to God however He sees fit. We pray for our children, that they too will know Him. Together we repent of selfishness that distracts us and keeps us from enjoying our marriage, our children, and life.

We were humbled to read John 17 tonight and note how in Jesus' prayer before the trial of the cross - he had five verses to pray for Himself and twenty verses to pray for others.

thanks for praying for Anita.

Update on Anita

Please continue to pray. This morning at 5:00 AM Anita had another seizure-like episode in the hospital. She seems absolutely fine now. Doctors have ordered another CAT scan.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Please Pray for Anita

On Sunday night (January 3), Anita wasn’t feeling well. Just before 6:00 pm she decided to try and eat something. When I (Brian) walked into the kitchen she was sitting down holding a tangerine. She looked up at and it appeared to me that she was having a seizure. I called 911 and within minutes the paramedics were at the mission house where we were staying.
Since the evening church service was about to begin there were a number of people pulling into the church lot next to our house. I ran over there while the paramedics were in the house and saw friends of ours. I asked them if they could watch our 4 kids while I followed the ambulance to the hospital.
When we got to the ER she was weak but coherent. While in the ER she had four more “episodes” where her arms and head squirmed involuntarily and her vision blurred. They look like seizures but are different in that she never really loses consciousness and if you speak to her you she can respond and even slow down the movements. While it was hard to see her go through them it was good that the ER doctors and staff could see them first hand.
That night she had CAT scans, chest x-rays, blood tests, a Lumbar-puncture and was admitted to the I.C.U. On Monday she had an M.R.I. more CAT scans visits from her doctor, a neurologist, and a cardiologist. We’ve been pleased with the prompt and thorough care.
The good news is that all her scans and tests came back absolutely normal and she has had a stable day. There are no signs in the M.R.I. of any seizures. The bad news is that we don’t know what caused the episodes. The best news is that God knows exactly what is going on and we trust Him. Please pray that He is glorified through every aspect of this trial.
Our kids are with friends and I am able to help care for Anita. Tonight (Monday night) Anita was transferred out of the I.C.U. to a regular hospital bed. If all goes well tonight she should be released on Tuesday or Wednesday. Please pray for healing for Anita, wisdom for the doctors, and wisdom regarding our upcoming travel plans on January 15.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

When Bied was young his family used to watch the Rose Parade on TV on New Year's Morning. That's what our kids did too. Strangely enough, Benjamin was the only one who was really interested. The parade is really well done. It's amazing to see how creative people can be.
2009 has come and gone. I cannot believe all that has taken place during this past year. We were blessed with the gift of precious Allison and also endured many physical trials. Our faithful God has been with us through it all. Our prayer is that God would help us this year to live by faith, rather than by our feelings and that we would not forget the blessings of every day!