By Alyce Collins
A STRESSFUL holiday period left this mother with full FACIAL PARALYSIS for five weeks during which time she was unable to eat or blink – and she says she looked like Quasimodo.
Waitress, Shayna Aldrich (34) from New York, USA, started to feel under the weather in November 2018 but didn’t show any signs of improving over the next two weeks. After a fortnight, Shayna began to recover but she was kept busy throughout the holiday period.
Unfortunately, in January, Shayna started noticing odd signs that something was wrong again. She ate an olive and commented that it tasted metallic, but her husband Patrick (31) and daughter Lola (8) didn’t notice the same taste. Shayna didn’t think too much of this initial sign.
The following morning, Shayna woke up with a numb chin, and by the end of that same day her lips had become numb too. Things spiralled further when Shayna got up the next day, two days after noticing the metallic taste, and her entire face was paralysed.
Shayna went to an Urgent Care centre where they ran tests to rule out a stroke. Further tests revealed that Shayna had a rare form of Bell’s Palsy which affected both sides of her face. Doctors believe that Shayna never fully recovered from her virus in November, which, coupled with the busy holiday period played havoc with her weakened immune system.
For five weeks, Shayna’s face was paralysed which stopped her from being able to eat or drink normally, she couldn’t talk properly and was unable to blink as her left eye wouldn’t close. Shayna’s left eye would stream with water for hours until it was completely dried out, requiring her to use eye drops to prevent the pain caused by dryness.
Shayna hated how the paralysis changed her physical appearance, causing her face to droop slightly and stopping her from being able to talk to people. Shayna even compared herself to Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame because she felt like a ‘monster’ at the time.
“In November I got incredibly sick for two weeks with what my doctors called ‘a mono-like virus’,” said Shayna.
“We went right into Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the chaos of the holiday season. My doctors think that when I got sick, I never fully healed, and my immune system was weakened.
“The first night I noticed something was up when we were having a nice family night. We decided to make pizzas as a family. I was eating olives and I said they tasted metallic. Neither my daughter nor husband agreed with me. That was my first sign.
“After the metal taste on the night of the incident, it progressed for two days. I woke up the next day and I had numbness on my chin. By that night at work, I felt numbness in my lip too. The next day, I woke up with full facial paralysis.
“I was terrified, and I thought I’d had a stroke at first. As soon as I woke up and realised my face was paralysed, I went to the Urgent Care centre.
“After doing tests to make sure it wasn’t a stroke, they told me I had Bell’s Palsy and I had the rare form on both sides of my face. They told me it shouldn’t get any worse, but if it did, I needed to go to the hospital immediately because then it may actually be a stroke.
“They prescribed me steroids to reduce the swelling around my nerves and basically told me it was a waiting game. They estimated anywhere from two weeks up to two months or, in extreme cases, two years.
“I couldn’t close my left eye fully, so blinking was impossible. My eye would water constantly for hours and hours and then dry out completely, so I had to use eye drops to retain some moisture.
“I also couldn’t spit when I brushed my teeth and I couldn’t eat easily. Soup and spaghetti and large sandwiches were out of the question, so I could basically only eat only things cut into tiny pieces.”
Shayna’s facial paralysis lasted for five weeks and then she began to gain back some movement of her features. She was used to laughing or smiling and only half of her face showing that emotion, but when she had recovered after over a month, she felt like herself again.
Shayna wants others who are going through Bell’s Palsy that it is difficult to endure, but they aren’t alone, and it does get better eventually.
“I felt like a monster. Most of the time I tried to laugh it off, comparing myself to Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but as the weeks went on it got harder to laugh,” said Shayna.
“Because of my age, I think seeing my face like that made people wonder what it could be. I’m awfully young to have a stroke and since that’s what it looked like I got some quizzical looks.
“When I say my face was paralysed, it really didn’t move. So, when I laughed or smiled, only half of my face cooperated. That gave us quite a few laughs and laughing it off took away the fear that I wasn’t going to be ok.
“When things finally started getting better, I felt like myself again. I could smile and laugh again. I had felt like a stranger was looking back at me in the mirror with the side effects of the steroids. It was nice to see me again.
“In totally, my face was paralysed for five weeks. The changing point was when I laughed at work and my co-workers pointed out that my face was moving again. That’s when I knew I really started to look normal again.
“People don’t really understand Bell’s Palsy until it happens to them or someone they know. If you have been diagnosed, then you aren’t alone so hang in there. Do your research, educate yourself, and above all, take care of yourself.”
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