My Bell's Palsy ExperienceJuly 10, 2020 - 9 min read 🍵🍵🍵🍵
Honestly, I wasn’t planning on writing about Bell’s palsy but I just had my second run in with it a few days ago and figured I’d write the topic that’s been on my mind and perhaps share a story of what happened a few years ago.
What is Bells Palsy?
An unexplained episode of facial muscle paralysis or weakness that begins suddenly and worsens over the course of a few days. I like to say that my face felt like it was smacked by a huge dose of numbing agent to one side of the face.
It was back in June 2016, the summer term during my last year of University, I was about 1.5 months away from doing my finals and a month away from taking my graduation photo.
I wake up one morning feeling a little weird on my face but didn’t really think of it. I was eager to go to my CS115 tutorial because I really needed the guidance for my assignment.
I remember sitting down with my TA and there were few of us around him asking questions. I decided to take out a snack, a granola bar to be exact. I don’t know why I remember this exact detail, it just stuck out to me.
Something felt wrong; I was chewing with only one side and my chocolate granola bar tasted like bland oats. I took a sip of water only to realize that it came spilling out of my mouth and then I immediately decided to leave the tutorial session to go back home.
I texted my girlfriend that morning about my face feeling weird. She thought it was just allergies. however, as I got back home, she looked at me and thought I was having a stroke, minus the heaviness of the arm on one side. She urged me to go to the doctors which I reluctantly agreed to and now we were at the walk-in clinic.
The doctor looked at me and did a physical examination of my face, arms and knees. He took out a tuning fork and an interesting hammer and started to check the nerves on my face.
The left side of my face felt completely numb, it was so bizarre. I couldn’t blink properly, I had a loss of taste and it felt droopy. I couldn’t feel the tuning fork on one side of my face and started to feel a little concerned.
He wrote down some notes on his computer and looked at me told me that he had seen something very familiar in a previous patient. Due to previous experience, he was not willing to take any risks as he told me it was either one of two things:
A brain tumor, or Bell's palsy.
The last time he had someone come in, he ruled it as Bell’s palsy and it turned out to be the former.
I couldn’t believe it; one is significantly more serious than the other. He offered his assistant to call the ambulance but I told him I could get a ride to the hospital.
Shit, I thought to myself: I spent 5 grueling years studying my ass off for a biochemistry degree to get a brain tumor? I thought the worst, the fear of the unknown and everything felt surreal.
After hours waiting at the ER, a doctor sees me. He did similar preliminary tests and concluded that it was infact just Bell’s palsy and not a brain tumor.
The doctor wrote me a prescription of 1000mg of Valtrex, three times a day with 50mg of Prednisone daily for 1 week. He told me I should be good to go in about 6 week’s time and I’ll recover.
Phew! My close friends and I were filled with relief when they heard the diagnosis. With a brain tumor being ruled out, I felt like I just won the lottery. Now the only concern was dealing with half my face frozen before having to take a graduation photo.
It was about 2 am in the morning and we were waiting at the pharmacy to dispense my prescription. I noticed the pharmacist was a new grad and was probably from Waterloo’s pharmacy school.
As we arrived home, we all sat around the kitchen talking about the experience and decompressing from the hospital.
I took out the Valtrex and I noticed it was about an inch long and half an inch thick. These pills were the biggest pills I’ve ever had to take, and when I looked at the instructions it said:
"Take 1 Pill 3 times a day"
Mind you, this is now 2:30 am now and I was pretty tired. My brain translated:
"Take 3 pills a day"
My initial thoughts were: its already the end of the day and I need to take 3 pills!
So without thinking, I took 3 pills at once because the day was over.
I just swallowed 3 large pills at once, was I supposed to do that?
I looked over at my girlfriend and asked my friends; they picked up the bottle and read 3 pills a day every 8 hours.
They stared at me and I immediately dial the pharmacy’s number to make sure I didn’t just set myself up for another ER visit for antiviral poisoning.
- Pharmacist: "Hello, Phamarcist speaking"
- Me: "Yeah, I came to you for my prescription for Valtrex and Prednisone about 15 minutes ago and I have a question"
- Pharmacist: "Sure, go ahead"
- Me: "I accidentally took 3 of the 1000mg Valtrex at once, will I be okay? "
- Phamacist: "..."
- Phamacist: "Bro... I told you take 1 pill every 8 hours... Can you hold for 1 second?"
- Phamacist: "Yeah, you should be okay, please drink lots of water and just take the next dose tomorrow but wait 12 hours"
- Me: "Okay thanks, bye "
I told everyone I was good to go and we all went to bed shortly after.
However, I was definitely not good to go. I remember waking up in the middle of the night having sweats, clutching my lower abdomen and half asleep tossing and turning. I was sitting upright and completely bent over in pain. It felt so bad but I was too damn exhausted to care and slept through the pain.
It was only until the next morning had I realized I was experiencing the overdose effects of the antiviral, dealing with agitation and exhaustion. I’m glad I made it alive to tell this story.
My Second Experience
This was a recent episode which prompted me to writing about my first experience and share my story.
Last week, I have been dealing with a dull aching pain near my spine and rhomboid muscle and a dull pain on my left cheek.
A few days ago, I was supposed to have my surgery unrelated to this issue. I was sitting in the hospital in my gown completely isolated from everyone due to COVID-19 precautions. They’d left me in the surgery waiting room after going through several sections of the hospital.
I waited without any distractions, TVs or my phone to keep me company. Just only me and my thoughts. It was brutal, I waited for 5 hours to see my surgeon running out to tell me that he’d been pulled out to an emergency case and had to reschedule my surgery.
I felt a mix emotion of relief and agony knowing that I would have to go through the entire process of scheduling another COVID test and having to wait alone. I realized at that moment, I needed to find a better way to manage my stress.
Later that evening after work (I worked a half day after I returned home in the afternoon), I tried to speak to a virtual doctor through an app that my company pays for. I wanted to address the dull aching pain that kept my left eyelid from fully closing.
I didn’t even pass the nurse triage questionnaire. They wouldn’t let me see a doctor virtually because I needed a physical assessment and urged me to go to the ER right away.
I was reluctant to go and I refused via the chat. Then, I had a nurse immediately call my phone to let me know they meant business and took my health seriously.
She said it was in my best interest to go see the ER right away because it was neurological problem, regardless of it just being Bell’s palsy. She already had scheduled someone to follow up with me the next day for an update.
How I felt after I hung up:
And so, it begins, another 3 hours at the same exact hospital where I was waiting 5 hours earlier that morning.
I was discharged with a second case of Bells and a prescription of Prednisone. I was given a consult with the neurologist in urgent care which I will see in a few days.
It is concerning, considering that having Bell’s twice is pretty rare. I guess we’ll have to wait for what the doctor has to say.