By Alyce Collins
AFTER doctors failed to notice a SHINGLE on this woman’s ear which she thought was a SPOT, half of her body became PARALYSED, leaving her with lasting damage which means she has to wear HEADPHONES to leave the house, protecting her from loud noises.
Counselling professor, Tanya Rust (29) from Montreal, Canada, was teaching a university course back in May 2017 when the overwhelming stress started causing baffling side effects.
While attending a graduation ceremony, Tanya noticed a twitching in her right eye before experiencing a pain between her ear and jaw on the right side of her face. Later that day, the twitching spread to the entire right side of Tanya’s face.
Although she knew her symptoms were strange and unusual, Tanya tried to remain calm. However, within hours, she was no longer able to blink, and she was taken to hospital after two hours of not being able to close her right eye and being numb all down her right side.
At the hospital, nurses did a strength test which highlighted significant differences in Tanya’s strength on her left and right side. Tanya was checked over for shingles, however nurses only checked her ear canal but didn’t inspect her outer ear for shingles, which proved drastic. Tanya was misdiagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and was told to return for a neurological exam the following day.
Unfortunately, Tanya’s paralysis became worse over the next week and she returned to the hospital where they discovered a previously unseen shingle in her outer ear had tripled. Doctors diagnosed Tanya with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (RHS) after her misdiagnosis.
The late diagnosis meant that shingles had time to develop and left Tanya with permanent damage. Now, Tanya endures hypersensitive hearing and must wear noise-cancelling headphones when she leaves the house as loud noises startle her damaged nerves.
“Leading up to May 13, 2017, I had been stressed because I was teaching, speaking at conferences, organising a conference and involved in several committees,” said Tanya.
“I woke up that day with pain in my ear and jaw area and had a graduation ceremony to go to. While at the ceremony, the right side of my face began twitching and the pain got worse throughout the day as the twitching became more frequent.
“It was an odd sensation and uncomfortable as I had never really experienced twitching in my face before. I found the pain and the twitching to be odd as it was different and weird.
“By that night, I couldn’t blink my right eye. I felt extreme panic because it was completely out of my control. My body had never acted this way, so to have these symptoms was very frightening.
“I was at the hospital by 10pm Saturday night, about two hours after I realised I couldn’t close my right eye. Initially, they performed an electrocardiogram to rule out a stroke and luckily that was ruled out straight away.
“Then the nurses had me squeeze their fingers with all my might and noticed a significant difference in the level of strength between both sides.
“The doctor told me that I was his first patient ever with facial palsy, which didn’t fill me with confidence. They briefly checked for shingles in the ear canal but didn’t check my outer ear thoroughly, as they missed a shingle that had formed.
“So, at that point I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. I was sent home and for eight days I had excruciating pain and further paralysis set in in my face, difficulty eating and drinking beverages. I even had to eat applesauce out of a straw.
“My ear was itchy and the sore, which I thought was a pimple, had two other sores near it that hurt to touch. Eight days after I was initially diagnosed, I went back to the hospital and was re-diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (RHS), which is shingles in the affected ear and facial palsy.
“I was told the recovery process would be slower and I could possibly have permanent damage because of the shingles.”
Immediately after seeing the sores on Tanya’s ear, the doctor realised she had been misdiagnosed. The delayed diagnosis meant that shingles could do more lasting damage to the nerves in Tanya’s right ear because shingles has a 72-hour window for effective treatment.
Due to her late diagnosis, Tanya now suffers from Functional Neurological Disorder meaning her brain still sends confused signals which result in hand tremors among other symptoms, hyperacusis which is hypersensitive hearing, and frequent tinnitus.
“Mentally I struggled fighting off thoughts like, ‘will I ever be normal again?’ Or, ‘what if my smile never comes back?’ said Tanya.
“The pain was unbearable, I felt like I was being stabbed in the face and ear. I also started having an increased sensitivity to sound which became more and more of a problem even as I recovered.
“Because of my hypersensitive hearing, I have to wear noise cancelling headphones when I go out. My nerves are still aggravated and are sending mixed signals to my brain.
“In September 2017, I was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder, which affects the central nervous system. My brain sends confusing signals to parts of my body, like hand or arm tremors, difficulty walking, facial contortions.
“The doctors believe that’s because I wasn’t treated for the shingles on time, so my brain stayed in this confused state.
“My hope is that I can continue to inspire hope to people who are struggling with any type of chronic illness as I know it is difficult to find support.
“My channel, Tanyatastic Talks, has opened up a world I couldn’t understand prior to this experience. I’ve been able to help people who have experienced these health issues and help educate others who have not.”