Living with Bell's Palsy: What I Have Learned So Far

Day 3 with Bell's Palsy. So how's it going?

(Recap: While visiting my daughter 400 miles from home...to care for her during her recovery from a broken foot...and after a couple of days with deadened taste buds, I awoke on Sunday with a numb sensation on my lip and the top of my tongue. I became paralyzed on the left side of my face rather rapidly, and by late afternoon, I gave all appearances of having suffered a stroke. With fear and trepidation, I went to Immediate Care where I received a diagnosis of Bell's Palsy...and prescriptions for a 15-day supply of a corticosteroid called prednisone and an antiviral called acyclovir. The doctor told me that this could last 15 days...a month...or the rest of my life. With that in mind, I will be posting periodic updates on my latest er, adventure.)

Let me begin with the bright spots...before I forget that there are any. Having the left side of one's face paralyzed may be the pits, but there are worse things that could befall one. Here is my list of bright spots as of today:

1. Bell's Palsy isn't cancer. It isn't life-threatening. It isn't even terribly painful (unless you count the headaches or the stinging dry-eye issues...minor annoyances).
2. I haven't lost a body part (even if it feels like I have lost an eye...more on that in a minute).
3. I have a terrific support system: spouse, daughter, brothers, friends, and medical professionals. Counting my blessings helps me face the uncertainty with a positive outlook.
4. I can use my experiences to inform others who are facing this same issue. (If you found this post looking for some answers about your own battle with Bell'm Palsy, I hope I can be of some assistance. Leave me a comment or send me an email. PANIC YE NOT! You are not in this alone.)
5. I can adapt as needed, given enough information...and time.

Adaptations? So, what are we talking about here?

Can't drink from a cup without dribbling because the left side of your lips are numb? Use a straw. Granted, sipping hot coffee from a mug through a plastic straw, held on the right side of your mouth is odd, but it is doable.

Affected eye waters constantly, then dries out when even a little air blows in your direction, creating a painful, stinging sensation? Use artificial tears...a lot. Get an eyepatch. If you run into me around town, you can just call me Cap'n Pat! Arrrggghhh!! (This one has some consequences for me. My affected eye is the left one...which prior to Bell's was known as my "good" eye, because my right eye has a developing cataract.)

Difficulty eating, chewing, swallowing? Pick soft foods and take very small bites. And, if I have to live on scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, Palmetto Cheese sandwiches ripped into teensy bites, grapes and tiny watermelon chunks, and milk shakes for the duration...well, worse things have happened.

Difficulty speaking and making yourself understood? Talking taking such an effort that your jaw aches and your head hurts from the stress and strain? Don't talk. [This one is possibly the toughest one for me to manage. I try to limit my talking, but since I was "vaccinated with a phonograph needle" (as I was told as a child...back in the last century when we actually HAD phonograph needles...:), I pay the price for this one.]

Sounds, especially the dogs barking, are so intensified as to be painful? Use ear protection. Cotton balls are handy, easy to carry, and give some protection. If it gets too painful, switch to ear plugs.

Since my mouth has relaxed a bit, making it a little easier to understand me, especially if I speak slowly when pronouncing words with P, F, B, and S sounds, I spoke with my NC doctor's nurse this morning. I told her what was happening with me and what the Immediate Care doctors here in KY had said. I just needed some reassurance and a bit more information about HOW LONG, since that seems to be the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around now.

She was very supportive of the treatment I had received here, saying that's what Dr. K would have done, too. She encouraged me to use an eyepatch as much as possible. She OK'd the use of aspirin for the head aches. Continue facial massages with the warm washcloths. And, she backed up the "open-ended" recovery period, saying that "most" patients recover "most" of their nerve functions between 1 and 3 months. She did add that it may take a year "or more" to get back to normal.

Back to normal. Hmmm. Or, as a friend wrote me, back to my "new normal." As in, I may have to redefine "normal" by whatever state I find myself when all this is behind me.

So what have I learned so far? That I need to follow drs orders. Take my meds. Use aids for comfort like the warm washcloth massages, eyedrops, eyepatch, and hearing protection. Rest. And be flexible and open to recovery when, where, and how it happens.

Flexible? Sure! Just call me Gumby. Make that Cap'n Gumby! Arrrggghhh!!


Comments

Estelle's said…
You constantly amaze me....you are so blessed with the most fantastic sense of humor which you let shine in the most difficult of situations! You are an inspiration to so many Miss Patricia! Love and hugs to you and I pray you are back to your sweet, healthy self very soon!!

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