Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How I spent Stress Day

I woke up today feeling vaguely weird--my whole face felt sleepy or something, and I felt like I had something in my left eye. But I had to drive to the Twin Cities with Tom and so off we went at 7 am.

Half way there, in Hinckley, I bought a cup of coffee. I took a sip and it dribbled out of the left side of my mouth. It was hot coffee, but it didn't feel hot on my lip or chin. Or rather, it didn't feel hot on the left side of my lip or chin. It was like I'd had a shot of novocaine on that side.

The sky was clear, and we watched a couple of crows chasing a Bald Eagle and lots of Red-wings and stuff, so I wasn't too focused on my mouth. But then as the road curved to the east, the sun poured in, and I tried to close my left eye for a second, but it wouldn't close. I simply could not wink on that side.

I was still focused on the lovely day and getting Tom down to the U of M (where Sandhill Cranes flew over the parking lot!) Then we headed north again, and stopped at a Hinckley Subway for a late lunch. And that's when things got REALLY weird. I couldn't open my mouth right to bite into the sandwich, and when I did get a bite, I found myself chewing on my lip! It was bleeding, but I couldn't even feel it. So then I went to the bathroom and took a look at myself in the mirror. I found myself with a smile as crooked as Dick Cheney's and an eye that wouldn't close.

This was pretty scary, to say the least. I didn't have my palm pilot and didn't know my doctor's phone number, so I called Russ and asked him to call and find out what I should do. Tom drove the rest of the way (we passed a loon in one of those lakes along I-35), and then Tom brought me straight to the emergency room where Russ met us.

They made sure it wasn't a stroke--that was a relief! It turns out I have Bell's palsy. No one knows what causes it for sure, but it's a frequent complication of Lyme disease, so they are doing a blood test for that.

Fortunately, this isn't a bad disease, just a weird one. I'm afraid I'm going to look pretty asymmetric for a while. And until I master drinking without it leaking out the left side, I may retreat to a corner to eat. I have to tape my left eye closed when I go to sleep because it doesn't close properly--the cornea can be easily damaged. But the facial paralysis is usually gone within several weeks, and even if it lasts several months I can hardly complain after the relief I felt that it wasn't a stroke or brain tumor.

So that was how I spent "Stress Day." But imagining what a horrible day some people are having, mine was a piece of cake.