I was something in the 60s but now I'm just sixty something.

Losing Face via Bell’s Palsy

Signing on to Captain Hook's crew.
Aarrgghh matey!

I interpret the idiom “lost face” to mean being humiliated in public. This has happened to me on many occasions, usually by my own doing. I never gave much thought to the expression until I came down with Bell’s Palsy, a condition that causes facial paralysis. At first I looked kind of like a Picasso painting only much less colorful. Most people fully recover in a few weeks. I have what is referred to as a “less than optimal recovery”. Translation, my face is always going to be a freak show. I have literally lost my face. Having recently moved to a new town I was eager to meet new people and make some friends. Let’s just say I wasn’t making such a good first impression.

I did a lot of whining in the beginning. Now I’m trying to look on the bright side. That would be the side that actually works.

I had just come home from a trip to Australia to visits the kids and the grands. It’s a killer trip and nobody expects to look their best the next morning. When I glanced into the mirror I panicked and ran. Then I slowly crept  back for a second look hoping to see something different. No such luck. The left side of my face had completely fallen. The good news was I had absolutely no wrinkles on that side. My skin looked amazingly youthful. The bad news was my left eye was even with the bottom of my nose and my mouth had slipped right off my face and down the front of my pajamas. I went into denial mode and focused on my normal side thinking how it might look as smooth as the scary side with some Botox and a little collagen. I pulled the skin back on my face to see what a face lift could do. Then I snapped to and thought, “Holy shit, am I having a stroke?” I took my blood pressure and it was its usual pushing the limits of normal. I checked my balance and didn’t fall over any quicker on one side than the other. I tested my strength and found myself equally weak on both sides. I made a mental note to join a gym and hire a trainer. Then I hightailed it to the doctor’s office.

I was given prednisone and an antiviral. Mood swings? Prednisone should come with the warning “May induce homicide.” It could be a legal defense. “Not guilty by reason of prednisone.” I really, really, wanted to kill somebody. It didn’t matter who.

I tried physical therapy, acupuncture, warm face wraps, facial exercises, you name it. My face remained frozen. I could not blink, produce tears, or even keep my eye shut. It kept popping open. I taped quarters to my lid. Remember how that worked on dead people in the old cowboy movies? I had such a severe case of dry eyes my cornea was in serious danger. I put gooey, runny,ointment in my eye and patched it. Now I looked like a pirate. I scared little children and embarrassed their parents.

I hid in the house for a week or two until I just had to get out. My husband braved being seen with me in public and took me out to dinner. Unfortunately, my cheek muscles didn’t work either. I sucked my wine out of a straw so it wouldn’t dribble down my shirt. I had to eat very, very slowly, because the food kept slipping out of the corner of my mouth. I was eating chunks of the inside of my mouth which kept getting in the way of my teeth. I was not the elegant lady my mother so desperately tried to raise. Eventually I switched to gin and tonics which look more sophisticated with a straw and learned to swallow my food whole before it could escape my mouth.

Walking around with an eye taped shut presented another problem. I had no depth perception. I went to the farmers market and made three passes at a fruit sample before I could grasp it. Walking home from dinner I missed seeing a pothole and broke my foot. So now I had a patched eye and an orthopedic shoe. (Did I mentioned I was looking to make some new friends?) Do you know how long a foot takes to heal at this age? Do you know how quickly you can pack on the pounds when you have to stay off your foot?

I’m getting better now. The wrinkles have worked their way back across my forehead.  I can close my eye and I have a partial blink.  My eye looks pretty normal except when it doesn’t. The nerve fibers regenerate but they don’t know where to go. So now when my eye is open my mouth pulls up into this obnoxious sneer. When I smile my eye closes. When I blink I grimace. (Did I mention I was trying to meet some new people?) But hey, I’m alive and I’ve learned some patience. My foot has healed. I have a new talent of winking really good. And oh yeah, I can drink out of a wine glass now without a straw.