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).


Doug Van Meter said...

Hi Brian:
I just received word yesterday regarding Anita's seizures but am glad to read this latest post. It looks like some really good news. Jill and I are prayiing for her (and all of you) and tomorrow our congregation will be joining in corporate prayer as well. Please give our love to Anita (we love you too!)
Doug Van Meter

Carole said...

Hi Brian and Anita,

So pleased that Anita's condition can be treated naturally and she has been given 'relaxation' techniques to help her condition. When you think back - this has indeed been quite a year!

Thrilled that all seems to be well.
May the Lord bless you all.

The Parker family (Kim is here too at the moment and has been praying for Anita).

Caroline Gill said...

thanks again Brian, for taking time to keep us posted. Such good news that it is a temporary condition - Praise God for his mercy!! Please tell Anita to kick back and RELAX!!!! Love to all.

Lonngren and Anna Taljaard said...

Brian and Anita,

We love you and will be praying for you all! May you continue to seek Him during this challenging time and may He be glorified.

Lonngren & Anna Taljaard

Nana said...

Hi Brian and Anita,

Thanks for the good news Brian, have been so concerned for Anita and for you all really.
Praise His name that she is going to get well. We will continue to pray for her full recovery.

Love to you all,
Peter and Norma. PS. sorry about the Nana thing, don't know how to change it.

Carl, Melitsa & Aiden said...

So glad to to read the good news! I will be praying for time where Anita is able to really relax and let her body heal. What a year she has had!
Thanks for the update, Brian!

Geoffrey said...

Dear Brian And Anita,
You are demonstrating that our Lord is in perfect control of the storm. Thank you for your stead fast faithfullnes.
This sabbatical also shows that missionaries are in need of major overhauls and that our Saviour gives bountiful grace.
All praises and glory to Him
Geoff and Holly Drew

Sharon said...

Love you so much, bro & Nita. I am so relieved that the answer to all of this appears to just be relaxing a bit more. How I wish I could be there again just to spend time with you all. I could help Tostada with everything! ;)

azuremle said...

Thanks Brian for all the update posts. Thank you for sharing your heart and what you both are learning through this trial. We feel like we've been hit with a bit of perspective about how closely God is holding us in His hands. We are praying for you guys!
Emily Luehrmann

Amanda said...

It's amazing to see how the LORD has made us such that our bodies try to communicate our need for rest! Will keep on praying but thankful to hear the doctors are on to something!

Van Straaten Family said...

We are praying for you. Love you guys!!!!