I have been stricken!
Two Fridays ago, I woke up around 730 a.m. and felt an odd sensation in my face. I initially chalked it up to just being “puffy,” as I usually sleep on my stomach and it’s not odd for me to wake up with a swollen eye.
Went back to sleep to prepare for my night shift, and woke again around 5 p.m. This time, I noticed a definite change.
I couldn’t blink my left eye. I told my wife, who is an RN as well, and we agreed that, like it or not, I needed to be seen by a doctor. Good thing I work in an ER. I arrived at work and found one of the attending ER docs, and they wound up designating me as a stroke alert (my hospital is a stroke center and this alert is called for anyone displaying any symptoms that might be considered a stroke in order to speed the diagnostic/treatment process). Long story short, the stroke alert was cancelled quickly because my symptoms were not consistent with stroke. I had no deficits outside facial weakness. I could still move my eyebrow on the affected side. I wound up getting an MRI anyway, which was negative.
So, as it turned out, I have Bell’s palsy. It’s a clinical diagnosis, which basically means it’s diagnosed by the visible symptoms you have when other things are ruled out.
Luckily, I seem to have a rather minor case. I retained some movement in my forehead. I didn’t have a resting facial droop. My taste and hearing were unaffected.
Today is day 12 and, as of 2 days ago, I’ve already begun to notice some improvement. The effort it takes to close my left eye is quite less than it was. The corner of my mouth is now moving slightly with maximum effort. The recovery process can be rather slow, so I just have to be patient.
I wanted to post this so that if anyone searches wordpress for Bell’s palsy, they have another experience to read. I know it helped me out the first few days.
Having such a dramatic change in your appearance can really affect your self esteem and, I have to admit, I was feeling down that first week. I read up a lot about it and was able to talk to people at work and friends about it, and that helped ease my mind. It seems like many people around me know at least someone who has had Bell’s palsy. I also watched some videos on YouTube where people documented their recovery. That helped me too, as many of them had a more severe case than I do.
The worst part, for me, is the eye dysfunction. As I said before, I’m already experiencing a good amount of improvement, but I still have to sleep with an eyepatch to make sure my cornea doesn’t get scratched if I roll around in my sleep. The first week, I couldn’t blink the eye unless I closed it manually and that was super annoying. I had to use eye drops almost hourly. I’m almost to the point now where I don’t need the eyepatch to sleep, so I’m pretty happy about that.
So if you’re experiencing Bell’s, just know that things will eventually get better. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not so bad really. See your doctor, take your meds, talk to people about it, and just try to be patient. Feel free to comment if you have any questions!
Helpful YouTube videos: