In my home office I have a picture of me and my grandmother all gussied up because we were at a wedding. It’s nice to have that picture up to keep me grounded and as a reminder of someone who meant so much to me. The unfortunate part is that she had suffered a stroke several months before the picture was taken. Thus, half of her face is immobile. It’s not the way I remember her, but it is one of the only pictures of me and my grandmother that I possess.
Grandma was lucky. The stroke did leave her with limited control of one side of her body, but her mind was still intact. When my father suffered a stroke, he had damage in the speech center of his brain. His expressive aphasia, as it is known, was very mild. However, it was very frustrating for him to communicate at times.
Me, I am more fortuitous than my deceased loved ones because I did not suffer a stroke. I just get to experience a small bit of what grandma suffered for a month or so. Thankfully, it’s only my gorgeous mug that is affected and not my entire body. It would appear that I have Bell’s palsy. I’ve been on this whirlwind summer wedding tour and home for exactly 36 hours in the past month. Two days ago, while taking a break from driving in the mountains of B.C. I felt my face go numb on one side. A moment later it was gone. My wife was concerned, but I dismissed it because it went away so quickly. 5-10 minutes later I had the same feeling. My eye began to water and coincidentally my nose was stuffed. The wife gave me a cold and sinus pill because I thought perhaps my sinuses were the cause of the bizarre feeling. The next morning, I dribbled all over myself while brushing my teeth in the hotel. At breakfast, food would get caught between my left cheek and gums. After 3-4 hours of driving & adventures, I was making a mess of myself at dinner. I asked my wife if I was smiling. She asked me if I was trying to make a face. I said I was really smiling, no joke. So, we had the mandatory emergency room visit required of every road trip.
It’s a very bizarre sensation. I still have feeling and I can move the left side of my face. Yet, it’s very weak and only slight. I shouldn’t complain, surely I have much more control than someone who uses Botox. The ER doc broke a tongue suppressor in half and danced the splinters across my chin and forehead. That was the aha moment for me. There is much less sensation and I could feel it gradually increase as he moved to the functional right side. I mean who knew just how much work your face is doing at any given moment? Eating is such a pain because the chewed bits just fall into that left cheek chasm. Then, I have to dig at it with my tongue or unceremoniously with my finger to point the mash to my throat. Oh, and some of my taste buds are also out of commission so everything tastes weird. It seems even sillier to mention that I am crying all the time out of my left eye, except the doctor & pharmacist say that would be the serious issue with Bell’s palsy. My blink is weak, therefore my left eyelid is not properly lubricating my cornea, hence the tears. Which means my eye can dry out causing permanent damage. It’s got me freaked out enough that during the entire time that I typed this blog, I’ve covered my eye with a folded tissue to keep it closed.
I look like Airwolf character Archangel’s evil twin.
Bell’s palsy is temporary and my suffering should end in 3-5 weeks, I am told. Recovery is different for everyone. I should recover all of my facial control in due time, though some only get back 80%. Until I recover, I’ll just stick to podcasting so you don’t have to see my weird face.
Like my magical frozen shoulder( I don’t think I blogged about that. lucky you), doctors have no idea what causes Bell’s palsy. It’s believed to be virus, either directly affecting the nerves or the body’s own anti-viral reaction to the virus.
Whatever it is, the eye is making it hard to work. Either fogged up with tears or covered completely, I am frustrated. More than ever, I am craving the normalcy of home. Currently, we are staying with my wife’s aunt in Calgary on the last leg of my travels. Aunt Michele thinks I am handling the palsy very calmly, but in truth I don’t think it has all sunk in with all of the chaos of travel. My trip started in Michigan on July 29th for 2 weddings. From there, I flew home for a single day and then got in the car and drove to Vancouver for another wedding. After the wedding, somewhere around Osoyoos, B.C., the palsy hits me. Two days later, I am here in Calgary writing this while my wife speaks at a Google teacher convention. I hope to be home in 2 days and then maybe I’ll have time to have a proper freak out about losing taste, depth perception and the ability to smile for a month.
The moral of the story? Kids, don’t leave the house. Stay inside. Listen to Montreal Sauce podcast and order delivery food.