I felt an awful pain just in front of my left ear a few days ago. I thought it might have been toothache but none of my teeth felt tender with pressure nor my gums, I saw no ulcers in my mouth, could open and close my mouth without issue and the pain felt to be in my cheek. I couldn’t lie on my left side comfortably as pressure on my cheek and TMJ caused discomfort.
A couple of days later I couldn’t press my lips together after I had applied lip balm and yesterday morning I found I couldn’t hold water in my mouth on the left side when brushing my teeth. My left eye felt gritty and my speech was slurred if I didn’t speak slowly. The left side of my mouth and tongue felt numb and I am generally feeling unco-ordinated and dizzy.
Tempted as I was to do nothing and just book in to see my GP on Tuesday, I went to the NHS Choices site and ran through their symptom checker. The resulting advice being to call an ambulance as soon as possible. I then had to think what would I tell someone else in my shoes and with my medical history of Diabetes and Pulmonary Hypertension: I should seek medical help to just stop that niggly feeling and rule out that this is the start of something serious. It’s not so cut and dry when I’m the patient. What seems like obvious medical advice I would give is hard to take, but nonetheless I knew sitting on it through a bank holiday weekend was not on the cards.
So as a compromise I woke my husband at 7 am and told him we were going to accident and emergency. As I expected on arrival I was rushed through. My symptoms causing professional delight in those who have never seen or rarely see a mononeuropathy. Thankfully examination of my peripheral nervous system seemed as it should be and when both plantar reflexes were doing as they were expected to, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The accident and emergency doctor I saw was quite junior but I think he did a reasonable job of checking me over. He asked his registrar to review me, and it was unanimously agreed that I had Bell’s Palsy. I declined the offer of acyclovir and steroids as I’m not convinced they would make much difference really and I’m on more than enough medications. I accepted the artificial tears prescribed and was rather frustrated that the accident and emergency doctor had prescribed eye patches and tape but pharmacy do not supply these, I really didn’t want to go back into a progressively rousing accident and emergency department so decided we’d improvise at home. My eye didn’t and doesn’t seem so bad and I’m sure we could find tape in one of our first aid boxes. I endured the “One-eyed Willy” jokes from my husband and declined the offer to get me a parrot.
I freely admit once home I had an overwhelming feeling of why me? Haven’t I had enough? The negative voice in my head keeps telling me this temporary affliction is karma for being a rotten person. I know this isn’t true (sort of) and this is an illness that can strike men and women between the ages of 15 to 45 mainly but I feel like I’m being punished. It may take months for these symptoms to get completely better but it will take at least a couple of weeks to notice some improvement. My diabetes makes complications more likely but I can only hope that my good sugar control helps me to avoid such outcomes. I start psychodynamic group therapy with facial palsy. Maybe it will help break the ice? The event I dread most is my full face threading appointment as movement or lack of movement may hinder this beauty process plus the added worry of long term complications like strictures and a deformed face.
I am being overly judgemental, I know, but I do think the inflammation of my facial nerve is subject to the emotions I have been feeling lately. After all mind and body are not disconnected. Maybe I am getting my just desserts, if so I accept the punishment, I’m not without fault and if my being unwell evens up the score and delights certain people then so be it. It’s fitting to experience something I have diagnosed numerous times in others, ultimately it’s a humbling experience, after all I’m human too, and I’m grateful the outcome of these symptoms is not worse.