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.