I got up as normal, just after 6 am and went downstairs to make coffee and breakfast. I had glanced in the bathroom mirror, but hadn't really noticed anything as my eyes were rather blurry - normal for first thing in the morning.
While I was making coffee I kind of thought that my face felt a bit odd, like I was pouting all the time, but I took the drinks and my bowl of cereal back upstairs and sat on the bed to eat. It was only when the milk started running out of my mouth I really knew that something wasn't right. I woke my hubby with the words - "I think there's something wrong with my face."
He jumped out of bed and rushed me off to the hospital to be checked out. They had just changed the A and E system and we ended up at the new emergency hospital that had only opened the day before. Bells Palsy is diagnosed by elimiating other more serious conditions first. So I was duly checked to see if I had had a stroke or TIA, but after blood tests, CT scan and ECG came back clear I was given steroids to take, a presciption for eye drops and sent home.
At the time I didn't really think I had had any warning signs, but looking back I had noticed the muscles in my eye flickering the night before and I had the most killer headache before going to bed.
Initially I didn't have much pain apart from a pain behind my right ear - the side which is affected.
Bells Palsy afects the cranial nerve that works the muscles of the face. It's not known exactle what causues it, but some research suggests a dormant virus, which inflames the nerve, and prevents it from sending messages to the muscles in the face. It almost always effects just one side of the face, making it appear droopy.
Initially I went back to work the next day, but only managed half a day both Thursday and Friday. Just speaking was a huge effort and pronouncing words with p and b sounds very tricky - and still is. I was drained and found I needed a lot more rest than I'd given myself. As with any virus or injury rest helps the body fight back and recover!
1. The first thing I noticed was my mouth not working properly. Smiling looks more like and elvis sneer. This makes it difficult to eat and drink. I use a straw to drink and food needs to be in bite size pieces. eating a whole piece of toast or piece of fruit is almost impossible. Speaking means slurred speech and is very tiring as I try to make myself understood.
2. My Eye doesn't close and I can't blink. This means that the eye is at risk of damage as blinking allows the eye to keep itself lubricated and free from damage. I have sustained some minor scratches to my cornea, this is painful and means that my eyesight on the right side is blurry. I use the prescribed eye drops at least every hour and apply a gel at night and tape my eye shut to protect it while I sleep. Sunglasses also help as I can't squint in bright light.
3. Killer headache. Just behind my right ear - this has come and gone over the week, but tends to flare up when I've over done it or am tired.
4. Hypersensitive hearing. The hearing on the right side is super sensitive. Loud noises really do echo in my head. Just the kids being too loud hurts.
5. Taste has changed - I have a slightly metallic taste on my tongue. In face it's more like i've eaten Shechuan pepper and have a slightly numb tongue with a hint of aniseed.
6. I feel like the side of my head has been hit with a bat. Along the hair line, from my cheekbone to temple and the top of my eye socket feels bruised. I presume this is the swelling of the nerve that is causing it. It hurts and I want it to go away soon.
So what am I doing to aid recovery. On the advice from my GP I have taken some time off work to rest, but hope to be back at work towards the end of the week. I am hoping as we near 2 weeks after diagnosis that I will start to see some improvement in speech and being able to close my eye. This will help greatly when I return to work. But I know it could take longer! I have had a check up at the local eye clinic and will have a follow up appt. in a couple of weeks to check on my eye.
I am eating as well as I can. Enjoying a beer or two and trying to rest my face as much as possible. Progress could be slow and it may take up to a year to fully recover. Hope to be able to play my flute/ sax well before then!
Its safe to say everyone has been really kind and supportive. This could go on for some time! However, my family have decided that I should now be called wonky chomp - I think there's some dog chew called this! Typical!