February 28, 2020
After thinking back on when the “crooked smile” began, I should have been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy back in 2001 after having my wisdom teeth pulled; however, I was not officially diagnosed with Bell’s palsy until about 2006. It’s crazy how you remember things so far back then. I had pain in my ear and glands. I went to about two different emergency rooms because the pain medicine from the first emergency room visit was not helping the pain. As soon as the doctor walked in the room at the second emergency room visit, he asked “do you have Bell’s palsy?”. Bell’s palsy? What is that? How would I know? He sent me for an MRI then a CT Scan to confirm his diagnosis was correct. Let’s be honest. Although I understood the necessity of the MRI and the CT Scan, my pockets did not understand seeing as how at the time I did not have health insurance. Since I am overly Closter phobic, I had to do the MRI multiple times because me in a closed in tunnel was even more anxiety than not being able to smile. Hmph. Not being able to smile. My nickname was always “smiley” and I was always known for my warm smile so can you imagine the anxiety and panic attacks that I experienced every time I tried to smile. Let’s not mention that at this time I was also experiencing being a first time mother. After the testings were clear and confirmed that I indeed had Bell’s palsy, the emergency room doctor discharged me with some medicine and advised me to schedule a follow-up visit with a neurologist in two weeks. My visit with the neurologist was quick and even more expensive. My Bell’s palsy onset was over, I was back to my crooked smile that started in 2001 and the only advice the neurologist gave was that there was not a way to correct my now crooked smile because “I waited too long to seek medical attention”. Wow! No hope, no possibilities, nothing. Since the crooked smile was better than the facial paralysis, I accepted the medical advice and moved on.
Not another onset. I honestly had almost forgotten the diagnosis. Living with a crooked smile was life so I learned how to pose for the camera so no one else would notice. I moved from Mississippi to Texas and was living a pretty great life. Never did I have any issues with Bell’s palsy since 2006. In July 2019, I became sick. It started out with a scratchy throat which led to a sore throat due to consistent coughing which led to the standard sick symptoms. Honestly, I did not think much of it since I rarely get sick. Took a little TheraFlu, drunk warm tea with lemon, and tried to push through the sickness yet for some reason the swollen glands would not go away. Then, I started to feel like I had water behind my ear so I figured I should go to the doctor. Oh, what a trip that was. As normal, I went to the emergency room in Plano, TX that I had been going to since they opened. Typically, I always received friendly service. Note that I said “typically”. This time the doctor was so rude and unbothered by my illness. I even told her that some of the symptoms were the same symptoms back in 2006 when I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. She simply said the visit was non-emergent and that I needed to pay to receive any services. Wow! Since when is Bell’s palsy non-emergent? I attempted to go to an Urgent Care but they were just as bad. I went to another emergency room where the care was better; however, the diagnosis was totally invalid. Did I mention that I am having to pay my deductible and coinsurance fees for these visits? I was finally able to get a visit in with my nurse practitioner. She took one look at me and said, “this is classic Bell’s palsy”. THANK YOU! Finally, someone with true medical knowledge that can assist me. Then realization hit me. Bell’s palsy is something that I will be dealing with for the remainder of my life. Although things could be worse, the emotional disturbance is definitely not something to be taken lightly. She was pretty straightforward with me and advised that the visit would be cheaper for me if I go to the emergency room. She provided me with a referral advising of her diagnosis and gave me the address to the nearest emergency room (I begged her to let me drive rather than transporting me in an ambulance). After being admitted to the emergency room, the doctor walks in the room, examines my face, and says “yeap, this is classic Bell’s palsy”. I was thankful to have finally found another doctor that is able to help. This doctor provided me with prednisone and Tramadol with specific dosage instructions. After 7 days of taking my medications, my paralysis was gone and my crooked smile was back. During these 7 days, I suffered from extreme anxiety & panic attacks, started to do more research on Bell’s palsy, started joining some support groups on Facebook, and started to realize I am not alone. The “I am not alone” part truly helped me get through the most recent onset. Now, I am an advocate for Bell’s palsy. I talk about it to anyone who will listen and I try to educate everyone on those of us with “crooked smiles”.
L. TOWERS (UNITED STATES; DALLAS, TX)
February 28, 2020
I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy in February 2019. My diagnosis occurred 2 days after I was in a car accident that caused even more issues to my diagnosis. This experience was even harder for me because I recently relocated to Seattle, WA from Miami, FL. I was alone through this journey. Even though you read so much about this illness; nothing can ever prepare you for what's to come. I refused to let it bring me down so I sought help from friends in Miami and thankfully I received the right guidance by a dear friend that’s a physical therapist. I followed their recommendations and sought PT here. I received acupuncture and other treatments. Within 2-3 months of my treatments, my face and muscles were back to normal in my face; however, I did lose some eye sight on my right eye. I am currently seeking help for nerve and muscle damage that I have on my neck due to the Bell’s Palsy and the car accident. Even though I don’t have the droopy side effects, I do suffer from muscle spasms and nerve pain from my shoulder to my face; however, I will take this blessing any day of the week.
B. MOORE TAYLOR (UNITED STATES, IOWA)
February 28, 2020
Bell's palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves. The facial nerve-also called the 7th cranial nerve-travels through a narrow, bony canal (called the Fallopian canal) in the skull, beneath the ear, to the muscles on each side of the face. For most of its journey, the nerve is encased in this bony shell.
Each facial nerve directs the muscles on one side of the face, including those that control eye blinking and closing, and facial expressions such as smiling and frowning. Additionally, the facial nerve carries nerve impulses to the lacrimal or tear glands, the saliva glands, and the muscles of a small bone in the middle of the ear called the stapes. The facial nerve also transmits taste sensations from the tongue.
When Bell's palsy occurs, the function of the facial nerve is disrupted, causing an interruption in the messages the brain sends to the facial muscles. This interruption results in facial weakness or paralysis.
Bell's palsy is named for Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who described the facial nerve and its connection to the condition. The disorder, which is not related to stroke, is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Generally, Bell's palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face, however, in rare cases, it can affect both sides.
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