There’s nothing like thinking you might die to get you thinking about all the things you’ve never said to your kids.
This morning when I was having breakfast, I didn’t feel like I had the same motor control over my mouth as usual. It was harder to chew and to swallow and difficult to suck through a straw. The right side of my lips felt numb and flappy, as though I’d just been to the dentist. I went to the mirror and noticed that my face looked funny. I tried to smile. The right corner of my mouth wouldn’t turn upwards like the left side. When I frowned, the right side drooped lifelessly. I ran over to see my next door neighbour, who is a close friend and a nurse. She checked my pupils and tongue, and told me it wasn’t a stroke, but I was still scared. Back at home I went on the internet and googled “signs of a stroke.” The five warning signs of a stroke are:
Weakness Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary. (check √)
Trouble speaking – Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary. (In my stress, I found it hard to speak, especially with a numb mouth so I wasn’t sure if this counted or not).
Vision problems – Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary. (I’ve had blurred vision a few times over the past few days)
Headache – Sudden severe and unusual headache. (I’ve had lots of headaches recently)
Dizziness – Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs. (check √)
Needless to say, I became blind with panic. I told my husband I was going to call an ambulance, but he insisted he would drive me. I hugged and kissed my kids and told them how much I loved them, and told my friend to take them and meet us at the hospital. Along the way to the hospital my legs went numb and I started panicking even more.
We didn’t take a number and wait to be called when we reached emergency. My husband mouthed to a nurse that I was having a possible stroke and they flew into action. (It is important to assess for and treat a stroke immediately to improve survival and recovery.) I could barely stand at this point and crumpled myself against a post while an orderly fetched me a wheelchair. Then I almost hyperventilated while trying not to cry while telling the triage nurse what had happened. I was in a bed in emergency ahead of what looked like 20 or so people (sorry sick people), and being treated within 10 minutes of our arrival.
The entire time I kept thinking about my kids. (Our friend had brought them in her car to the hospital and then took them to the park while I was being treated). In the car, even though I was busy writing down my email passwords to my husband and the phone numbers of my closest friends should he need them in case something happened to me, I was worrying about all the things I wanted to tell my daughters, and all the things I wanted to tell my husband to tell them for me. But my mind was a blank. I just wanted them in my arms.
The doctor told me I wasn’t having a stroke. If I was, my forehead wouldn’t have moved when he asked me to raise my eyebrows. My pupils did something they were supposed to do too. And I could squeeze the nurses’ fingers and that is positive. Nope, I didn’t have a stroke. But I have Bell’s Palsy, facial paralysis caused by a swelling of the facial nerve. It was most likely caused by the ear infection that I have had for 9 days which caused me to miss my trip to Paris last week. (Yep, lots going on around here with my health!) The doctor I saw back then thought that if I flew I might rupture my ear drum, and if I ruptured my ear drum I wouldn’t be able to fly home and my trip would have been ruined. Two days after I started the anti-biotics and nothing had improved, I was pretty sure I had a viral infection instead of a bacterial infection. Turns out I was right. The doctor thinks I have shingles in my ear! The inflammation caused by the ear infection has put pressure on my facial nerve thus blocking the transmission of neural signals, or possibly damaging it (at this point we don’t know). I am now on prednisone for the inflammation and anti-virals for the shingles. The people reading this who are worried about the prednisone, it’s a large dose but I am only taking it for 5 days.
You can’t really tell anything is wrong if my face is plain, but if I try to smile I look like the above picture. See how my mouth won’t turn up on the right side? My right eye doesn’t close all the way either. I should assume this will last 3-4 weeks and that my ear should begin to feel better soon. If anything worsens over the next two days I have to go in for a CT Scan for them to rule out anything else. Fingers crossed. Good thoughts please.
When I got home I gathered my girls onto the couch with me and we watched The Princess and The Frog and snuggled up with a blanket. Even daddy watched for awhile with us. Afterward the girls dressed up in their princess clothes and I let them wear my lipstick and play outside in their “dry clean only” dresses. I didn’t freak out about the state of their bedroom or give them grief over the fact that they didn’t finish their dinner. Even though my vanity will take a beating over the next few weeks, I’m counting my blessings today and not the number of toys left on the living room floor. I didn’t have a stroke. Hallelujah.