Gilly recovered from Bell’s palsy, she shared her story with us to give hope to those newly diagnosed.
I went to bed as normal and woke up with a tight feeling in the left side of my face. It felt very odd but believe it or not I didn’t look in the mirror straight away as I was rushing to get ready for work. I showered, all the time thinking ‘My face feels odd’- and then I looked in the mirror! At first I thought I’d slept funny and was just a bit freaked out! I had total feeling in my face but no movement from forehead to chin and could not close my left eye.
I got ready for work and felt confused, scared, and panicky but still went to work!!
I am a Dental Hygienist and wear a mask at work so I put this on without making contact with anyone, I was embarrassed about my face because I am usually a very smiley person.
I couldn’t hide any more when the practice manageress came in to see me, I had to show her my face and asked her what she thought?! Next thing I was on the way to the Doctors by now in a state of panic and upset thinking I may have had a stroke, which hadn’t entered my head until talking to colleagues.
I phoned my sister and mum and realised I was slurring words and couldn’t speak properly, very scary! The Doctor was very supportive and sent me with a letter to A&E and said not to drive in case it was a stroke. Oh dear, by now came the tears!
A&E were marvellous and after seeing the triage nurse I was taken straight into the stroke clinic, I felt a rising panic and my mind was working overtime. However, after tests and chats they diagnosed Bell’s palsy and prescribed a 7-day course of steroids, as well as eye patches and drops for my open eye as the left side of my face was completely immobile.
To anyone suffering with Bell’s palsy I would say the worst thing is not being able to smile. Smiling is the first contact you have with another person and to know you look disfigured when you try and smile is very upsetting. The other frightening thing is not knowing how long it will last.
Luckily I was off work on holiday for a week after being diagnosed and was going camping away from it all so it did give me time to research and get my head around my new face! After seven days of steroids there was no change at all, the medical team had told me it could be caused by a virus or compression of the nerve or stress and that it could return to normal in 2-6 weeks. After research I realised it could take a lot longer than this!
Reading people’s blogs online and realising you are not alone was such a huge help and I was very lucky to have support from family and friends. I returned to work and had mastered my speech slightly to make it less noticeable, it may sound silly but I was glad to get to work, put on my mask and get on with life.
The whole time I was researching, chatting to people online with similar experiences and this helped me a great deal. I would recommend anyone in the same situation do this as you need support. Contact Facial Palsy UK, a great network for support.
Every morning I woke up and tried to move my face, it was the first and last thing I thought of, on my mind constantly. After seven
weeks I woke up and had a twitch in my left eye! I was elated as felt this was progress. I took photos of my face every day and each day as I smiled at my disfigured face I saw my mouth had slightly altered, even 1mm into a smile was better than it was! Gradually after three months I am back to normal. I hope this story helps people in the same situation, I am happy to be able to smile again.
Last reviewed: 29-05-2017 || Next review due: 29-05-2019