This has taken me forever to post, most because it’s turned into a bit of a long story and I haven’t had that much time to be online. So I’ve been writing it on my palm pilot and finally transferred it to here.
Last Friday, I woke up and noticed my tongue felt weird. My sense of taste was off. Not just the flavor of anything I ate, but the texture as well. Later that day, I noticed my right eye started twitching. Saturday it got worse, and I was whining and whining to my co-workers about it, because I could hardly taste the food I was eating, and with your sense of taste that degraded, everything just gets kinda nasty. Plus, I really love eating and food. So I was just slightly bitter about Dr. Pepper suddenly being nasty to me. Grrrr. Guess, I still am. Anyway, Sunday and Monday it improved a little. It was finally on Sunday that I realized my tongue was actually numb on the right side, a patch in the middle of the tongue. The tip of the tongue and the left side worked, but the right side, not so much. Monday it was about the same.
I mentioned it to my mom when I took her out for her birthday lunch Monday and she said it sound like Bell's Palsy. Oh great. While I was at work, I WebMD'd it to find out more and it sounded like what I had but not as severe, because I didn't have any paralysis. Well, two minutes later, I started laughing and joking around and realized my right lower lip wasn't responding the way it should. Surprise! Paralysis!! Ergh. I called my mom and the way home and described it to her (it's only apparent when I smile, and especially laugh). She recommended I call the on-call doctor and get free advice (versus waiting til the morning and only getting a nurse). The doctor figured it was probably Bell's Palsy, but was worried that it would be something worse and told me to go to the ER that night, not wait for the clinic to open. Aw man!! Here's the first thought running through my head: "I don't have insurance! I can't afford this!!!" I told the doctor and she sympathized, but just couldn't advise me to do anything but go. Keep in mind, this is all on my way home, i.e. in my car, i.e. not with Steve. So I walk in the door, a couple minutes later, crying because I'm freaked out about everything that goes along with an ER visit to rule out a stroke! I tell him what's going on, I call my mom to tell her we're coming to drop off Jilly and we go. While we're at her house, I call the doctor again to ask which hospital I should go to. The local one (Stevens) that her practice is associated with, or Swedish in Seattle, where she used to work, my mom does work (she remembered the doctor from there) and I've had all my major stuff (surgery, giving birth). She recommended Swedish, so off to Seattle we went!!!
At this point, I'm pretty darn sure I'm not having a stroke, because nothing is sudden. So I'm starting to stress about having a CT scan or MRI and how much this is all going to cost, etc etc. Steve was so awesome. He was completely calm, told me to stop worrying about money, because there was nothing we could do about it and my health was way more important. Then he started cracking jokes and cheering me up. Just what I needed. I knew there was a reason I married that guy. We ended up driving around the First Hill area for probably longer than we needed to, because I kept telling Steve to turn somewhere and then it would be a stupid way to go. It probably took us an extra 10 minutes to park. He kept saying he wasn’t going to listen to me anymore (even though I knew where the ER entrance was, and he didn’t) but he kept doing it. I kept cracking jokes, when I realized I’d messed up, about why the heck he was listening to someone who just had a stroke. ;-) We finally checked in to the ER at 9:45pm. I was triaged and registered by 10:45pm, but then just had to wait until they can take me back. It's just before midnight when they take me back. I'm so glad my mom said just to have Jilly spend the night and she'd bring her home in the morning. What a load off my mind! I can’t imagine having done all that with a bitter, cranky, exhausted, independent, refuses-to-sleep-anywhere-but-in-her-carseat-or-crib toddler.
Once I was taken back to the room, they hooked me up to the monitors (PulseOx and BP). Originally when I was triaged, I noticed my BP was high for me: 114/86. When I got hooked up in the back, it had gone down just a tad, like 110/80. But otherwise I was doing fine. My symptoms hadn't changed since they'd gotten worse earlier that night. The nurse came in to check on me and told us the doctor would be in as soon as he could.
I'm not sure how long we waited but it was around 12:30am when he came in. Dr. Nicholson interviewed me about my symptoms and why I'd come in. When I was telling him about what I thought, he asked if we'd looked up Bell's Palsy online. I told him I'd done a little reading but not much. He then asked if we knew the difference between central 7th something something and peripheral mumbo jumbo. We kind of stared at him blankly, and quickly said, "No! That's why we're here!" At this point, it felt like he was asking, as if to assert his authority as The Doctor and almost scold me for reading online. But the more we talked, I realized that he was really just trying to gauge how much we knew, so he could best explain it.
He started to have me do different things to figure out exactly what was going on. I smiled, closed my eyes and raised my eyebrows. I could only manage one of those three things normally. My right eye couldn't close quite all the way; which I hadn't actually realized until we got to the hospital and tried it. My smile was definitely crooked. But I could raise my eyebrows symmetrically. The doctor showed us that meant it was my Peripheral 7th Facial Nerve, not my Central 7th Facial Nerve that was affected. Apparently that was a good thing. He then performed the rest of the physical exam. After finishing and finding nothing else affected, he told me they were going to run my urine sample, make sure I wasn't pregnant (which I'm not!), then he'd come back.
So we were back to waiting. It was past 1am and we were both really tired. I started joking around and asked Steve to compare the ER exam room to the L & D Triage room we'd been put in when I was pregnant with Jillian. Steve voted the ER room, because it was more comfortable for him. I kinda preferred the L & D Triage room, because it was private and you could look out the glass doors right out at the Nurses' Station, vs being closed away in this tiny room, I'm sharing with another patient (with just a curtain separating us) and not knowing where the nurse or doctor was. That was pretty much how we weedled away the time.
The doctor came back once more, and talked to us about the medications he was putting me on. He said that if you start steroids and anti-virals (about 40% of cases are related to herpes, I have HS1, i.e. cold sores) within 24-48 hours, then it improves the amount of function you get back. I was slightly bummed, because I knew it had been 4 days since my symptoms started. But! He said that since my major symptom (the paralysis) didn’t start until just a few hours before that, that he considered it within 24 hours. He told me, most people wouldn’t have picked up on the tongue numbness and eye twitching as early as I did. I felt a little better at that. But I also find it a bit hard to believe someone wouldn’t notice their tongue being all messed up! Oh well. Then more waiting. The nurse came in with my first medication, which I took right there, as well as the written prescriptions, but we had to wait for the second one to arrive from the pharmacy. We were really tired, and starting to lose the will to joke around. We started whining about how tired we were and getting impatient. But overall we both held up well. I was just so grateful that my mom could watch Jilly and offered to keep her all night. It would have been an utter nightmare with a cranky, exhausted toddler who refuses to fall asleep in anyone's arms.
The nurse came with my final medication as well as an eye patch, to prevent my eye from drying out over night since it wouldn't close. After being assured we understood the After-Care instructions, she let us go home. Praise be for that blessed moment! As we walked to our car, 4 hours after we had left it, Steve called his work, leaving a voicemail that he would not be coming in Tuesday. We finally made it home around 2:20am and had collapsed into bed, including sexy eye patch, by 2:45 or 3am.
Tuesday was spent running errands, picking up prescriptions at different pharmacies, taking my sister to the doctor and setting up my own appointment, picking up Jilly, then going to work. The new program offered at Wal-Mart, Target, and Fred Meyer, of $4 generic prescriptions saved me so much money! It could have cost me over $60 for just one of them, so you can only imagine how relieved I was to use the program. I also got a new eye patch, a cool black pirate looking one for during the day. The one from the hospital had three pieces: a gauze pad to close the eye, a metal colander looking cover, and an elastic band to hold it all together. It works fine at night (when it stays on) but during the day it really irritates my eye. The black one doesn’t tough my eye, so it protects it from the light, when it’s too bright, but doesn’t prevent the eye from opening.
Now, it’s Friday and things haven’t improved tons, but at least I know it’s being treated. I’m learning to live with it, but it is getting more annoying. My right eye can’t squint or close without artificial help. It’s still watering a lot, but I felt it starting to get dry last night, so I had to put the eye lubricant in earlier in the evening. I can’t open my mouth all that wide, so eating can be a hassle. And even though the tongue numbness improved from Saturday, it’s still there, and food is still not as pleasing as it should be. Dr. Pepper is still gross, which is probably the greatest travesty in the whole matter. I can’t close the right corner of my mouth either, so now I’m drooling more. Oh joy. And drinking and eating need to be done carefully, so as not to spill and dribble all over myself. I started twitching a little again, like in the center of my upper and lower lips, and below my right eye, but it’s only on occasion. I can feel more of the paralysis in my face, like above my upper lip and below my eye. My cheek feels a bit weird from not being used like it normally is. But my face isn’t actually numb. Nor is it drooping. So it’s still not noticeable until I tried to close my eyes or smile. I can feel it when I talk, but no one can really tell. There are a couple random things though. Because my mouth has trouble closing completely (you know, other than my typical constant chattiness ;-)), it’s hard to spit, like when I’m brushing my teeth, as well as take my pills, and actually say my own name when I answer the phone at work. Hehehe. Oh well. Like I said, no one else can really tell. It’s mostly my own impatience with it. I have been quite blessed throughout this thing, my mom was able keep Jilly all night and call in a generic prescription for me. My major facial function hasn’t been affected and I’m not droopy at all. And I didn’t have to have the imaging tests at the ER that could have made my bill skyrocket. I’m sure this will all work out fine. I have a follow up appointment with the doctor at my regular office this afternoon. After that happens, I’ll post about what they say, plus I’ll see if I can get a picture or two to show off the sexiness that is Bell’s Palsy. Until then, my loyal followers, adieu!