Monday, March 8, 2004

I'll Never Smile Again

Wednesday I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, a disorder caused by damage to cranial nerve VII in the brain. Bell's Palsy causes sudden facial drooping and decreased ability to move the face.

All day Tuesday my right eye was watering. Now I'm used to my share of crying but this seemed more an irritation than an emotion manifesting itself. Tuesday night as I was brushing my teeth I noticed that the right side of my face felt like it feels when I'm shot up with Novocain after visiting the dentist. Now I'm not exactly the brightest bulb on the planet but I kind of figured that something was probably wrong.

Sure enough the next morning Dr. Joyce told me what I had. She said the affliction is sometimes caused as an aftermath to a virus. A couple of weeks back I came home one night to the worst stomach cramp imaginable. I spent all that night moaning in bed (not in a good way) frightening the kitties. My feet started to cramp up and I felt dehydrated so I got up and tried to drink some water only that made my stomach hurt worse. So I lie curled up and moaned some more knowing that the kitties likely weren't to get up and make me some soup and get me some Ginger Ale like my Mom used to when I was a kid.

There are several annoying things about having a numb side of my face. I have in the past been accused of rolling my eyes and making faces even when I'm not doing so intentionally so facial control has never exactly been a specialty of mine. Public drooling though I've generally had under control.

I can't whistle (which I like to mindlessly do in my car) and I don't think I'll be playing a trumpet in the near future. I'm having a hard time firming up my lips enough to apply lip balm and thus my lips feel constantly chapped. Brushing my teeth is a chore and eating is no picnic. And I can't suck (which I guess may or may not be a good thing).

In a search for some comfort and sympathy I dug out my Brian Wilson CDs. Brian of course sings out of one side of his mouth since the left side of his face suffers from some form of paralysis. My voice will never have the range of Brian's even as his diminishes, yet it seemed strangely appropriate to be singing my lil' heart out along with Brian both out of one side of our numb faces. It also made me realize that Muscular Dystrophy has Jerry Lewis and after reading that one in 10,000 suffer from Bell's Palsy (though some say the number is closer to one in 500 or one in 1,000) I think it's time some comedian (my pick would be Jake Johanson) would lead the way to greater awareness and an eventual cure of Bell's Palsy.

Dr. Joyce told me that usually the numbness lasts from two to six weeks and usually it isn't permanent. But I've talked to a couple of people who told me their friends had Bell's Palsy and for them it lasted from a couple of months to a couple of years. I was given some steroids (there goes my shot at the Big Leagues) that Dr. Joyce told me the medical community was split on- they may or may not do any good.

After just a few days the lack of facial strength is already is getting old. I had to speak at a public meeting and it was hard enough getting my thoughts to coincide with my words without having to dribble everything out of the left side of my mouth all the while hoping no one noticed.

Still I realize it could be worse. A friend recently told me she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and thus has to take medication for the rest of her life. Already one with low blood pressure the medicine's side effect is to lower her blood pressure even more and thus she is afraid that she'll pass out on occasion. When she told me about her condition about a month ago I felt horrible for her. When I had lunch with her the other day and I was struggling to eat my Jimmy John's BLT sandwich I didn't know whether or not I should let her know the tears on my face may be from a variety of different things- both voluntary and involuntary.

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