I thought the water tasted funny.
That’s how it started. With an assumption, and a wrong one at that. If I drank something and it tasted off, there must be something wrong with it. It’s sobering to me to think that I could ignore something affecting me so seriously and yet it was the easiest thing I could do. I blamed the situation on a water cooler that had been acting up for weeks. I tossed the water and refilled my Yeti tumbler from another source. That water didn’t really taste much better, but I just blamed what I believed to be the previously “tainted” sample for the bad taste in my mouth.
I thought the left side of my face was swollen.
Something felt off on the left side of my face. It felt puffier and I felt more sensation in it when I moved. I could get my teeth around the inside of my lips on the right side of my face, but repeating that task on the left side of my face was nearly impossible. It took much greater effort to achieve the same result, so, clearly my lips must be swelling on that side of my face. I didn’t SEE any difference in my mouth, nothing major at least. But I convinced myself that my lips looked fuller on the left side of my face as a result of swelling.
I must have had an allergic reaction to something. That was obviously the answer. Perhaps it was something I came into contact with or something I ate. I seriously considered the ingredients of the vegetarian “chili” my best friend made as a potential culprit as I ate from the leftovers for a second time. In short order I had convinced myself it had to be some outside influence, potentially even a tasty one.
I thought the issue was spreading to the rest of my face.
I found that when I smiled that I had more pronounced sensation in my cheek. Earlier that day I was told I was pulling my mouth out to the left side more than the right. I could tell that it was becoming easier and easier to blink my left eye as if there was some irritant in it or on my eyelids. My right eye was tearing up during this. Here came another concern, other parts of my body responding to my suspected allergy.
This was starting to go beyond a condition I could wait out. I needed to see how much this issue was really affecting my face to determine if I needed to WebMD up a course of recovery to deal with whatever I had encountered; clearly the antihistamine I had taken earlier wasn’t doing the trick. I inspected myself in the mirror and immediately noticed the clues I had missed.
I was mistaken.
There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with the left side of my face. The supposedly heightened sensation I felt in my lips and my cheek and my eye were just actual sensation. As I inspected my face I finally noticed that the right side of my face suffered from facial paralysis. The issues I was having tasting were potentially a loss of sensation in my tongue. My issues with my mouth were likely a combination of the paralysis setting in my face and the limiting range of motion of my mouth. My eye was generating tears to prevent drying out because I hadn’t been blinking it. I could cock the left side of my mouth into a half of a smile; my right cheek just budged a fraction of an inch and my lip almost imperceptibly moved on that side.
I thought I was having a stroke.
A lot of thoughts went through my mind in the ER. Seven years ago my father suffered a major stroke from which he never really recovered. There was a lot of solid progress early on in the treatment and management of his condition, but lingering injuries complicated the process. Eventually his condition deteriorated. I thought of his own struggle with his condition as the hospital staff poked and prodded at me. It was hard not to think about him and not just for the parallels in our situation. We were in the very room where the emergency personnel couldn’t revive him just ten months ago.
At the very least, I took comfort in the fact that my face was the only thing that was paralyzed at the time. But I began to wonder if I would face another ischemic attack that would take away more function from my body. My greatest fear is to be trapped in my own body, unresponsive to my commands. But everything around me was moving so quickly I didn’t even have time to be afraid. I was more in shock than anything else.
I did my best to keep up my spirits and joke with the hospital staff. It’s what my father would have done, so it falls on me to keep up the tradition. Anything to distract me from my thoughts. Anything to not consider that I’d have complications like my father. Anything to make me forget the cross-section of a stroke-damaged brain I had seen at the BODY WORLDS exhibit. Anything to divert my attention from the CT scanner that I was heading toward that would seal my fate. But it was too late, I was looking at the x-ray tube spinning around me and there was no escaping what was happening. Considering the mechanical function of the machine was my comfort. Like asking to face upward to watch the guillotine drop.
I was mistaken, again.
“There is no sign of stroke.” I’ve never felt relief wash over my body so quickly as it did when the ER doctor uttered those words. No matter what condition I found myself in, my nightmare had not come true. This was truly the best news I could have received. The doctor informed me of my consolation prize, however. It was my lucky day. It was no matter, though. The worst of my situation was over and I was ready to do whatever was necessary to take care of my condition.
I have Bell’s Palsy
Oddly, I was the third case of Bell’s Palsy at my local hospital in the past 24 hours. Apparently misery loves company. The cause for the condition in each person can be largely unknown, but several factors can be treated to help in recovery. I left the hospital with a prescription for antivirals and a steroid with instructions to follow up with a primary care physician for further treatment. At the very least I had been putting off going to the doctor to check on my blood pressure, so now I finally have a reason I can’t ignore to make an appointment. I don’t know where this journey is going to take me. Most people recover from Bell’s Palsy within months, at least to some degree. But I’m really not concerned.
I feel fine. I’m actually sleeping better now than I have in a long time despite having to tape my eye shut so it doesn’t dry out at night (a situation that could lead to damage or loss of the sight in my eye). I have no pain outside of the irritation I caused to touching my right eye constantly as I dealt with my excess tears (and also for using too much tape directly on my eyelid to try to keep it shut).
I posses no other effects in my body as a result of the condition. The right side of my face does not respond to my attempts to move it. That’s it. I’m physically and mentally stable. And I’m not letting my condition get me down. If anything, my resolve to do anything in life is stronger because of the situation I find myself in. Funny how things work out sometimes.
David Bowie – Afraid