I was in a video meeting yesterday morning and the person I was talking to said something funny and I laughed. Or I tried to laugh. I suddenly felt like half of my mouth had just come back from the dentist after Novocaine. I was a bit startled but pushed it aside.
Later, I looked in the mirror and noticed when I tried smiling it looked like a lopsided pirate sneer. And my right eye was drooping. I tried not to panic.
I was in another meeting later that day and had a little trouble speaking. I am not sure anyone noticed but me. I checked the mirror and the drooping eye and right side of my mouth was pretty noticeable. And yes, it did occur to me that this could have been signs of a stroke. But as you may or may not know, I hate going to doctors and I hate trips to the ER more than just a trip to the doctor. I also reasoned that it was only my face and if it was a stroke I would feel it in at least one arm and leg.
So I splashed cold water in my face and acted like nothing was wrong.
My wife went out to dinner that night and she commented that my eye looked swollen (we were eating in a dark tavern). I said I was just having trouble with my eye because one of the nose pieces had popped off my glasses and it was throwing off my bifocal vision. Meanwhile I discovered it was kind of difficult to eat and drink. It was very much like being numb from the dentist and trying to have a normal meal.
I went to bed and meditated as usual and drifted off. Occasionally I would wake up and wonder if it was better. But I realized I couldn't make my right eye shut tight the way my left one would. I woke early because I was supposed to go into the city for a mandatory department meeting. I looked into the mirror and realized something was terribly wrong. I brushed my teeth and water squirted out of my mouth when I tried rinsing. I went upstairs and my wife took one look at me and said we needed to got to the hospital. I agreed.
We got to the ER (which is fortunately only a few minutes away). They checked me in with that usual bored attitude people who have worked around trauma too much get. Don't get me wrong, they were all nice and professional, but you could tell it was just another day of old, sick and needy people wondering why they had to sit around so long.
I got seen by a nurse pretty quick. He asked all the questions you would expect and checked where I was numb and where I wasn't. He lectured me about coming in immediately with these types of symptoms. Then I was sent back to the lobby until a doctor came and called for me. I talked to him for maybe two minutes before he was called to an incoming stroke victim. I sat there for another minute before another nurse came and took me for a cat scan. Even you have never had one, they are kind of trippy with bells, whistles and horn sounds that they try to cover up with New Age music. Plus you wear one of those hospital gowns that tie in the back (nuff said).
I finished and went back to the lobby. My wife said the doctor had come back and she chatted with him for a few minutes about what she'd found online about my symptoms. They both seemed to agree that it was more likely something called Bell's Palsy than a stroke. But still I had to give four vials of blood and have an EKG before the doctor came and told me that it wasn't a stroke and very likely Bell's Palsy. My wife was pleased to have her diagnosis confirmed. The doctor prescribed some steroids and anti-viral medication. I was released after about four hours.
Good news (again) it wasn't a stroke and it will eventually go away. I will just look uglier than usual for a few months.
Bell's Palsy is a condition that causes sudden, temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. The exact cause of Bell's Palsy is not well understood, but it is thought to occur when the facial nerve, which controls the muscles of the face, becomes inflamed.
How is that for ringing my bell?