One day I awoke to an uneventful Saturday. I was 21 and my best friend and I had big plans to hit the town mall. We always looked forward to days like these. I really didn’t have a care in the world. Sure, at 5 I had to be back at my father’s restaurant to waitress but I had the whole afternoon before that.
E (my best friend) and I took our lunch in the food court of the mall. The food court featured such delicacies as Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips (E worked there), Mc Donalds and Sabarros. It was right before Easter and I still believed I was a good Catholic so I got a fish sandwich, fries and a coke.
As I ate and drank my coke I noticed my mouth would not tighten around the straw like normal.
“That’s funny,” I said as I pulled the straw from my coke.
“What?” E asked.
“This is silly but my mouth won’t tighten around my straw.” I responded.
E, my best friend for almost a decade responded with “that’s weird, I wonder what could cause that?”
Being 21, you really don’t think anything as silly as your mouth not fitting around the straw being an issue. We quickly dismissed it and focused on the collar necklaces at Claire’s Boutique.
Later that night I looked in the mirror and realized I couldn’t smile, at least not half of my face anyways. The left side of my face went up while the other did not. I worried a little but decided to wait till the next morning to lose my shit.
The Next Day- All Hell Breaks Loose
The next morning came and in addition to not being able to smile, my right eye lid wouldn’t shut. I officially lost it. The entire right side of my face wouldn’t move.
I lived about 30 minutes away from the family doctor. I cried on the phone to my mother the whole drive there. My mom was already at the doctor’s office when I pulled in. Normally our physician was a hot young Italian but he was unavailable for the day.
Like a freak, I was quickly moved into the “infectious waiting area” because my ailment was making me act like Snots from Christmas Vacation. I don’t know why but it was making me sneeze a lot and the drainage was awful.
After a few minutes we were allowed through the door that led to the examining rooms only we didn’t make it to a room. We were in some sort of make shift ER that was empty.
A young Indian woman stood before us with her left leg crossed over her right, arms folded, leaning against a gurney.
“Bell’s Palsy.” She said in a deep Indian accent.
“Excuse me?” My mom asked.
“Bell’s Palsy. That is what she has.”
That bitch knew what I had without even examining me. Turns out Bell’s Palsy is a paralysis of one side of the face caused by stress. A nerve in the back of your neck is pinched thus halting all actions on that side.
I was given essentially horse tranquilizers and told to take them but also massage my face three times a day so that nothing would get weak and stay paralyzed. If I did this, my face would go back to normal.
As embarrassing as it was, I still had to work at my father’s restaurant with a 1/2 paralyzed face. I looked like the hunch back of Notre Dame and incredibly embarrassed.
One evening, 2 bar patrons sat at the bar. I asked what they would like to drink. After they gave me their order I smiled but then quickly realized it was a 1/2 smile so I bent my head down so they wouldn’t see.
Eventually I explained to them why only half of my face would smile.
“Naw, it doesn’t look bad” hillbilly #1 called out. “You look like that Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman.”
‘Wait, what? How do you get complete right face paralysis with Dr. Quinn, medicine woman?’ I thought.
But as time went by I appreciated the comment because I felt ugly and horrible for several weeks. I continued to massage my face like a crazy person and eventually movement returned.
All told, my mouth still shows a very slight droop. I don’t think anyone would notice unless I pointed it out. To this day I am so scared it’s going to come back and I will then again have to explain why I look like a leper.