Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bell of the Ball

It's been an interesting 24 hours for me. Educational, somewhat scary at times, but interesting.

Something seemed funny last night when I was brushing my teeth before bed. I couldn't manage to spit the toothpaste out the center of my mouth. It was like the left side was making a tighter seal than the right, causing my left cheek to balloon out like normal and the right one to be somewhat flatter. Hmm, that's odd. Oh well. I went to bed.

The same thing happened when I brushed my teeth this morning. I thought, again, that it was somewhat strange, but chalked it up to being too focused on trying to make my face do something while looking in the mirror. You know how sometimes you can trick your brain into not being able to do something you normally do without thinking? I figured that was what was going on. Besides, I had to get to work.

I hadn't been at work very long when I noticed that, if I closed my eyes, the right one didn't close as tightly as the left one. I could scrunch up the left side of my face, but it was like the right side had been Botoxed (not that I'd know personally, but based on all the various caricatures I've seen, that was the analogy I drew). Okay, what the hell is this? Am I having a stroke? What the crap?

I proceeded to freak out, just a wee bit. This may be the first time I've had a real honest-to-goodness "must protect the unborn child" instinct. But as freak-outs go, it was pretty minor. I tried to call the Kaiser "advice line," but that turned out to just be the automated appointment-scheduler thingy. So I called Mom. Because that's what you do when the going gets a little scary and the option's available.

Mom told me I wasn't having a stroke, so I calmed down a little. She said it still sounded like I ought to go see a doctor anyway, advice with which I agreed, so I left work for a bit to make my way over to the nearest Kaiser hospital, where (supposedly) Urgent Care was to be had.

A few brief words about the Kaiser Permanente system. I've discussed it before, so you can check out that post if you like, but the bottom line is that nothing's quite the way you expect it to be. At the little clinics, "urgent care" requires an appointment. At the big hospitals, "urgent care" doesn't open until 4:30pm. Do they bother to mention that on their website? Noooooo they do not. My options were to go to the Emergency Room or to schedule an appointment for later in the day. I chose the latter, since I was fairly certain that I didn't have an actual life-or-death emergency. I got an appointment back at the Pasadena clinic for this afternoon.

The diagnosis was Bell's Palsy. To be perfectly honest, I had done a little internetting after I'd gotten back to work, so I wasn't at all surprised when the doctor said that's what I've got. From the Bell's Palsy InfoSite & Forums: "Bells palsy is a condition that causes the facial muscles to weaken or become paralyzed. It's caused by trauma to the 7th cranial nerve, and is not permanent." It's believed to be viral in nature, so the typical treatment involves a course of antivirals, to fight the virus of course, along with a short course of steroids (specifically Prednisone), to reduce the swelling on the nerve. Were I not with child, I'd happily be on said medication at this very moment, but Prednisone's effects on fetal development are not well studied. So the doctor wanted to consult with my OB before prescribing anything. He said that even without any drugs, the condition will resolve itself, usually within a matter of weeks, rarely within a couple of months. Oddly enough, being in the third trimester of pregnancy is actually considered to be a risk factor for Bell's Palsy; I'm not entirely sure why, and I'm only in the second trimester now of course, but I still thought that was somewhat strange.

So, what's going on with me? I feel fine, first of all. My smile, crooked already after my broken jaw six years ago, is even more lopsided than normal. I can't close my right eye without also closing my left, so no winking on that side. Eyestrain from staring at the computer seems to come on a bit more readily than usual. Also, it's a good thing I'm not drinking much of anything but water these days, because little dribbles of water are so much less troublesome than little dribbles of, say, red wine.

This will go away. I will be fine. I'm thankful to only have this minor annoyance to deal with, rather than the major worry that a stroke would have been. I'm writing this so that if, someday, you or someone you know presents with the same symptoms (since this is apparently a much more common condition than I realized), you'll be able to look back and say, "Aha! This is just like that thing Susan blogged about. No worries; I know what it is and what to do."

And now for the hugely ironic moment of the day. Tom & I are of course assembling potential name lists of both genders for the unborn offspring. We're not ready to share those with the world yet, but this one little thing was too strange not to mention. One of the middle names we were considering for a girl-child: Bell. Not the French adjective, but the English noun. Something tells me we may not be using that one now. ;)

Update: For more on my Bell's Palsy Experience, read this post.


Momentary Academic said...

Oh dear. Well, I hope that you are doing better. I'm sorry that you have to deal with this little glitch in the works.

I know that I've written this before, but I am so proud of you. You are really handling this so well!

I think that I'm just marveling because you are about my brother's age and I can't imagine his becoming a parent for many, many years to come. :)

YaYa & Buddy said...

Thank goodness for Moms and the internet! So glad you took the time to give us all reassuring information - please continue to keep us posted on treatment, etc. So proud of you both........Love & Hugs.....YaYa

Riley & Tiki said...

I recognized it before you said it was Bell's Palsy. Some additional advice. Be patient with it. My old boss had it and wasn't patient. She had surgery where they moved some nerves around. The end result was an eye that tended to tear, so she always dabbing it with a kleenex. He tongue was messed up on one side and interfered with her speech. Let's just say it's very difficult to understand someone who has a Chinese accent AND a messed up tongue. We got used to it, but it was very frustrating for her that people who didn't know her as well couldn't understand her. So be patient. It'll go away. NO surgery!

Congratulations on the little one!

Riley & Tiki's Mom

susan said...

MA - I think it's all relative (no pun intended, honestly). I feel like my little sister (at 23) would be too young to have a kid, but my best friend from high school had her first when she was that age, and it seemed perfectly normal. Weird how that works.

Yaya - I got the word today from all 3 doctors involved that the prescribed treatment regimen will be safe even with the pregnancy, so I'll be picking up my meds from the pharmacy this afternoon. It's only a week or so's worth of both drugs, trying to knock this out fast. Hopefully it'll do some good!

R&T's Mom - Definitely not planning on having any surgery. I've got to practice my patience anyway if I'm going to have a kid around soon, right? ;)

Megan said...

As soon as I started reading, I thought it was Bells Palsy. Strange. I should've gone to med school. Glad to hear that's all it is, though. I have Kaiser, too, so I feel your pain (well, not literally). Yay for mommy and baby doing well!

susan said...

(Teacher) Megan - I actually have no major complaints with Kaiser for the routine/scheduled stuff. Appointments planned well in advance have caused me no trouble thus far. It's the "I'm sick, I need to see someone NOW" stuff that is seriously annoying. Oh well. Could be worse I suppose.

More news coming next week as to just how well kiddo's doing, but since I'm starting to get a tiny bit of a belly, I'm guessing that growth is progressing like it oughta. :)

Lord Chimmy said...

At first I was like, DAMN! But, then I realized I was confusing Bells Palsy with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. I done got my palsies mixed up. Well, I'm glad you don't have PSP because that would super suck.

Hope you're better soon. Glad to hear you and the baby will be alright.

susan said...

Chimmy - I too am glad I don't have PSP. I wouldn't mind a PSP, however. Those things look like fun.

Amy said...

When I told Jeff, he said, "Does her arm freak out like Josh Blue's?" Again, wrong kind of palsy :)
I've never been able to close my left eye independent from my right...is that weird?

susan said...

If you've never been able to do it, then that sounds like lack of coordination rather than lack of physical ability. However, if you were always able to and then suddenly couldn't, that's weird.