My facial palsy arrived one week after a head trauma suffered during a night out with my best friend.
That evening I was assaulted. I fell and hit my head on the pavement causing a fracture to the skull (petrous temporal bone – where the facial nerve is housed) which resulted, amongst other things, in some blood and fluid leak into my right ear. My first awareness of it all was awaking some six hours later in hospital when my friend told me what had happened. I came through with only some concussion and temporary hearing loss. It could have been much much worse and, for several days afterwards, all my family and I discussed was how lucky I had been…
Then it struck! I went into the garden one morning and noticed that my right eye felt a bit more sensitive to light than the left. The eyelid didn’t seem to be closing properly. But I thought nothing much of it and got on with my day…
Several hours later, it occurred to me that I couldn’t move the right side of my face at all! It would be an understatement to say that panic set in – my initial thought was that I was having a stroke linked to the head injury. My parents rushed me into Accident & Emergency. It was there that I first heard the now very familiar words of ‘Bell’s Palsy’ – which the doctor believed I was suffering from. He sent me home and told me that a specialist appointment would be arranged to begin treatment.
The next day I began reading about the condition. Some of it scared me but mainly I was encouraged by the fact that most people seem to recover. In hindsight, it was lucky I did this as it informed me of the importance of commencing steroids within 72 hours of onset, something apparently lost on the A&E doctor and also the specialist who suggested that I visit an ENT consultant within ‘a week or so’. So I asked my dad to drive me back into hospital and requested the steroids myself.
The first message I want to give to anyone who has just suffered palsy is get yourself onto steroids ASAP. I will never know how much effect it had on my recovery, but believe it was very important. The condition is not, from my experience, one that many doctors specialise in. Don’t assume your GP or the doctor you have visited in hospital is all that familiar with it…
Having got the steroids, I began reading more about palsy caused by trauma. It suggested that the prognosis is not as positive as it is with ordinary Bell’s Palsy caused by infection etc. This message was then communicated to me in person by a consultant who, around 5 days after onset, told me that because my paralysis was total, a recovery was less likely. I don’t cry much, but I did that evening. It was devastating.
The second message is therefore to try and stay positive! The next day, I resolved to believe that some recovery would occur. To keep morale up, I found it really helpful reading blogs on this website and watching some clips on YouTube (of people who had video charted their recovery, some of whom took 6 months or more before they could smile again). It re-emphasised that most people do get better but also showed me examples of those who aren’t so fortunate but still lead a normal happy life. It helped me get used to the idea that I could do that too. That in turn enabled me to go out and socialise as normal with my friends and return to work as a lawyer, meeting clients etc. Doing this made me realise that, after a few minutes getting used to my new smile and blink, they all saw me in just the same way as they did before palsy. Just as my incredibly supportive parents and girlfriend had. My confidence returned, even if my facial nerve hadn’t yet.
About 14 days after onset, a tiny section of my right eyebrow began twitching ever so slightly. Two days later a similar sensation began on my cheek. I’m fortunate to say that these were my first steps in recovery, one that continued very gradually for the next 3 months at which point I was around 85% back to normal. It is a recovery that continues now – 6 months after onset I’m pretty much there. I now know that, contrary to the first consultant’s advice, it’s a recovery that most trauma sufferers make where the palsy onset is delayed (i.e. it doesn’t occur immediately at the time of the trauma itself).
I’m over the moon to be able to smile again, something I didn’t do enough of before I couldn’t! I hope that you will make some recovery too and that, whether or until you do, you remain positive.
Disclaimer: Please note that views expressed are person’s own and should not be considered a recommendation of particular medical treatments, therapies or surgeries. We would always advise you seek advice from a health professional with experience in facial palsy who can assess your individual needs.
Last reviewed: 22-10-2016 || Next review due: 22-10-2018