Monday, March 30, 2009
My Adventure With Paralysis
Thankfully, Bell's Palsy is not a permanent paralysis, but even after nine years, I have daily reminders of what it did to the left side of my face. Maybe I should be over it by now, but it left permanent reminders in my face. It was probably brought on by a traumatic event in December 1999. The first sign that something wasn't right was numbness on the left side of my tongue. When the left side of my mouth started a downturn, I knew it was time to see the doctor. Right in the doctor's office, more changes came on. My left eye became hard to blink and my cheek stopped moving. I became a curiosity for everyone in the office. Most of them had never seen Bell's before. During the worst of it, my left eye would not close or even blink, my mouth was in a frozen frown, but only on the left side -- not at all attractive. When my parents heard about it they were determined to help, insisting that I go down to their house in Port Republic to relax for a week. Dad drove up to the District to take me back down there. Spouse was a good sport about it, but I know his feelings were hurt and we missed each other terribly. Nevertheless, my siblings told me I should let my parents try to help. I was waiting at the front entrance to our apartment house when Dad arrived. He didn't have to speak -- the look on his face said it all. He put my bag in the back and I climbed in the front. I tried to relieve his pained expression with humor, but no luck. Stopping at a gas station on the way down, a woman caught sight of me and stared for the longest time. She finally looked away when I gave her a crooked grin. Eating was downright ugly. To avoid dribbling food or liquids, I held the left side of my mouth shut and drank through a straw. So as not to frighten anyone or attract debris, I wore a black patch over my unblinking eye. Lack of depth perception made walking and climbing stairs real interesting. Many, many people have survived Bell's. Eventually, the worst of it goes away and a semblance of normalcy returns. However, for one who, for a very brief time was considered pretty, the embarrassment of having one nostril twitch at odd times, an uneven smile and a constant twitch under my left eye is a lot to handle. Friends and family supportively say they don't notice, but the mirror doesn't lie. I don't smile as freely as I used to. When children and babies look puzzled or scared when I smile at them, it hurts but I understand. They have yet to learn tactful artifice to avoid embarrassing others. But then some people never learn . . . Don't feel sorry for me, though. There are so many others with far worse problems. Losing Spouse or having a terminal disease -- now those would set me back!