Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Gallery: The Day I Lost My Smile!

When I think of Tara's gallery I tend to think happy thoughts and of beautiful photos and lots of joy. Unfortunately this week when I saw the prompt of 'A Smile' I knew exactly what I had to show and what I had to share. For a while now this post has been sitting in my head waiting to be blogged about.

Saturday 29 July 2006. The day I lost my smile.

The first day of me learning a big lesson in humility. The first day of a few months of pain. The first day of realising just how vain I was. The first day of realising how strong my faith in Christ had become. The first day of the rest of my life... my life with a wonky smile!

Above taken 4 Aug 2006,

Above taken 14 October 2006.

I started to feel a bit strange from the Monday before, a terrible headache and very low earache, then from Tuesday I had the weirdest taste in my mouth and some numbness. By Thursday the taste was so bad I had made a dental appointment assuming I had something very wrong in my mouth. Dh and I drove to my parents on the Friday night and I remember in the car telling dh that was eye felt fat and I was so tired, I could hardly keep my eye open. We both thought that a busy week at work had taken its toll. Upon arrival at my Mums we fall into bed and I sleep soundly, unaware of what is happening to my face while I sleep.

I get up earlier than dh and go downstairs where I chat to Mum and she is looking at me very weirdly, she then says I am slurring and my face is a bit droopy on one side. So off I go to look in the mirror and she is right, something weird is happening to my face but I am in no pain so I do not panic and wonder what is going on. I don't think it is stroke but it does look like it. I go and wake dh and tell him 'no hurry, but when he can would he take me to the emergency doctors please'. He wakes with a jolt and asks what is wrong and then looks at me and 'says we need to go now'. Off with go with our 2 year old and they leave me at the doctors while heading off to the park, no need for us all to sit around - I am sure I am fine.

The nurse does not look so sure that I am fine! In fact she is very, very concerned and wants to call an ambulance to take me to A & E now. No thanks, I say my hubbie will drive me there soon. Where has all this calmness come from? By this point I really do look like I have had a stroke, half my face has fallen and I can not close my right eye, I can not smile, I am slurring and I still have that awful taste.

Roll forward a few hours and we have been to A&E and they have given me some steroids and confirmed the diagnosis, I have Bells Palsy. This is temporary facial paralysis, normally on one side and normally people fully recover from this with very minimal problems. The recovery is often within a week. Yay, I knew there was reason to be calm. Thanks be to God.

We stay the weekend at my parents and I have to take it easy, my right eye will not close. The hospital recommend taping it closed and patching it for periods during the day, I also need to use artificial tears as any scratches on my eye would be very detrimental. I go to two wonderful services at my parents local Church and get prayed for by some lovely women. I shed my first tears since this has happened and am even more upset to see I can only cry out of my left eye.

Roll forward again, this time a week or so and nothing has changed there has been no improvement to my face. Why is this? I discover that the severity of the palsy (or paralysis) depends on the damage to the 7th cranial nerve. The more severe, the longer the recovery period. By this point I am in agony, here is part of my diary entry for Wednesday 5 August 2006 (Day 13).

"The pain is getting worse, I never expected this. For me I thought paralysis would be just that but no, my face on the poorly side feels like it has been beaten black and blue, just to touch it hurts."

The doctor diagnoses me with facial neuralgia the next day and gives me some drugs to take for it, these knock me out and stop me driving but the carbmazpine along with co-codamol and nurofen seem to do the trick and the pain starts to subside.

In the end I am off work for about 6 weeks with the facial pain and the tired and scratchy eye that still hurts. I think one of the worst things was not being able to eat or drink properly, as I could only use half my mouth everything would spill, so I had to use a straw to drink very small amounts. After about 6 weeks I am back at work as I can blink again, after about 4 months it is less noticeable and my face does seem to be making some recovery form the physio that I am having.

Roll forward another year and I still have a very wonky smile and in July 2007 when my girls were born there was a scare after their birth that the Bells Palsy might have been reoccurring. Luckily it did not but I am now always aware that when I get too tired or too stressed my face takes the strain and droops a little.

It is now 4 years later and the residual symptoms remains, I can not frown on one side, I can not blow bubbles or blow kisses, I can not blow up balloons, I only cry from one eye, my eyes water when I eat, I blink less often with my right lid and of course that wonky smile remains, although I have learnt all the tricks in the book to hide it. Take a look at my profile picture above - can you spot it?

Do you know why I 100% believe this happened to me? Because I was not listening to God and His will for me. I had made myself so busy and so stressed with tons of things. I needed a wake up call, one strong enough that it would get me to re-assess my life and give up some of the tasks and start to be a better wife, mother, employee, friend, daughter etc etc

It worked! I stood down from most of my roles, I took some steps in faith by applying for jobs I believed God wanted me to go for and by November 2006 I was pregnant with my wonderful twinnies. What a blessing they were. We had been trying to get pregnant since 2004 and nothing but then when I least expected it I feel I was rewarded for my faith in the Lord. I knew that all would be OK and I knew that losing my smile was not the most important thing in the world.

I still look at photos and hate my asymmetrical smile, but you know what this imperfect face is slowly teaching me - humility! I am very aware that I can be flawed with Pride at times. In the past my sense of self-importance has been out of control but nowadays I am pleased to say that I can recognise this character defect and do work to help keep it in check!

So there I am, laying myself bare again! A chance encounter with a viral illness changed my life and shaped my character and helped to make me the imperfect Christian I am today.
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