By Kate Harrold
THIS MUM spent THOUSANDS trying to fix her face after GIVING BIRTH left her with uneven brows and a DROOPED LIP – before being told it was PERMANENT.
Stay at home mum and entrepreneur, Gladys Warden (28) from Monahans, Texas, USA, gave birth to baby Mila in November 2017. Four days later, Gladys woke up with uneven eyebrows, a numb tongue and a drooped lip. Gladys suspected she had Bell’s palsy – a condition which her mum had been diagnosed with three times.
Bell’s palsy is a type of facial paralysis in which a person loses the ability to control muscles in one side of the face. Symptoms can include twitching, loss of movement, and weakness. Gladys informed her gynaecologist who explained that this was common in women who had recently given birth. At this stage, Gladys wasn’t too concerned as her mum had made a full recovery each time.
Gladys began trying various treatments to try and tackle her Bell’s palsy. In total, she’s spent over £2,800 ($3,600) so far. This includes chiropractic treatment £625 ($800), acupuncture £155 ($200), undergoing an MRI £390 ($500), and electric simulation physical therapy £1,650 ($2,100).
Gladys has also tried home remedies, CBD oil, and facial massages, but nothing seemed to be working. After further consultation, Gladys was told that she had developed synkinesis. This means that Gladys’ nerves didn’t heal correctly causing permanent muscle damage in her face.
She’s since contacted the Facial Paralysis Institute in California who charged £310 ($400) for the consultation alone. They’ve suggested a treatment plan for Gladys which includes Botox and selective neurolysis surgery – but this costs almost as much as a luxury car and would leave Gladys out of pocket.
Following her diagnosis, Gladys completely lost her confidence. She took six-months away from her fashion blogging as Gladys was unable to come to terms with her new appearance. Instead, she took up an interest in fitness – a hobby that provided her with a small sense of control over her body.
Gladys is still weighing up her options, but now embraces her new appearance. She has resumed fashion blogging and hopes to inspire others with Bell’s palsy as she doesn’t believe it should stop anyone from living their life.
“The morning before the onset, I remember my eyebrows were so uneven and I couldn’t figure out why,” Gladys said.
“As the day went on, more symptoms started occurring like a numb tongue and a drooped lip. I didn’t feel scared at the time because my mum had had three episodes in her life. I thought it was something that would come and go.
“I had to sleep with an eye patch and tape my eye shut at night because it wouldn’t close.
“I didn’t go to hospital because I knew it wasn’t a stroke. I think if my mum had never had it, I would’ve gone to hospital. I called my gynaecologist who has just delivered my baby. Apparently, this is something that isn’t uncommon for pregnant women or women who have just given birth.
“He prescribed steroids and I took them as followed.
“I saw a chiropractor for low level laser therapy for nerve regeneration and nerve function. This was $50 each time I went, and I went a couple of times a week for a month or two.
“I did acupuncture on my face and body which cost $100 for each of the two sessions.
“I also saw an ear, nose, and throat doctor who did an MRI to make sure there was nothing else causing the Bell’s palsy. This cost $500.
“After this, I was sent to a neurologist who sent me to physical therapy. I did this three times a week for four-to-five months. I did electric stimulation where they stuck needles into my face. I also did facial exercises. I think this helped in my healing the most. My insurance covered the first thirty sessions but then it cost $70 a session after that.
“I also did home remedies, tried CBD oil, essential oils, and so many other random things. It’s hard because Bell’s palsy isn’t something that has a direct treatment plan so it’s unclear how to treat it or know if you’re doing the right thing.
“I developed synkinesis which is a neurological symptom in which a voluntary muscle movement causes the simultaneous involuntary contraction of other muscles. My nerves didn’t heal right.”
Gladys’ confidence plummeted as a result.
“My confidence was completely shot,” Gladys said.
“I had just had a baby so that postpartum stage is already difficult. Your body does not look at all like it used to. Your skin is saggy, and you don’t feel confident – add facial paralysis and it’s even worse.
“I was embarrassed to look people in the eye and I’d always start off by saying ‘I have Bell’s palsy,’ when I would see someone for the first time in fear that they would stare and wonder.
“As a fashion blogger, I stayed away from the camera for almost six-months. It was hard to take pictures and see the new version of myself.
“It did push me to throw myself into fitness. I knew I wasn’t able to control what my face looked like, but I could control my health and what my body looked like. I set a goal for myself that really pushed me to find my confidence again.”
Gladys has received an outpouring of support from those close to her.
“Everyone has been so supportive from the beginning,” Gladys said.
“Of course, no one thought I would never recover. It’s rare that people don’t heal, but over time, I’ve met so many others via social media that are just like me, so it has helped me feel less alone.
“I haven’t had a purposely negative response. I have had people ask, ‘why aren’t you smiling in this photo,’ unbeknownst that I had this condition. I know they didn’t mean I was ugly, but small comments like that can really hurt sometimes.”
Gladys is still talking to specialists about possible treatment plans but in the meantime, she is using social media to raise awareness.
“I had a video conference with the Facial Paralysis Institute in California which cost $400. They offered Botox treatment and selective neurolysis surgery.
“It is a very expensive surgery and I’m not quite sure if it’s feasible or not. My insurance doesn’t cover it and it costs as much as buying a brand-new luxury car.
“I’ve recently been informed of a doctor in Houston who also specialises in facial paralysis so I will also be going to see him in a couple of months to weigh up my options.
“Sharing my journey on Instagram has been such a positive thing in my life. Putting myself out there really pushed me and got me out of my comfort zone.
“I was asked by a local news station to have my own fashion news segment. I was so nervous to do it. I let them know I had Bell’s palsy and that didn’t bother them at all which was so nice. I figured there was no way they’d want me on camera when they saw my face.
“I’m a Christian and a firm believer that God has me here for a reason. If I’m not going to be fully healed, then I know I can help others in this situation.
“When I first got Bell’s palsy, I couldn’t find a lot of stories out there like mine. Mostly, everyone healed which made me feel even more alone.
“I have received so many messages from people all over the world letting me know I’ve served as an inspiration for them.
“I’ve learnt that people who really matter, don’t care what you look like. What leaves more of an impression is what your heart looks like.
“I’m two years in and I still have hard days and cry about it. It’s okay to have a pity party for yourself but don’t stay there.
“Don’t let Bell’s palsy stop you from living like it did for me for so long.”
For more, please visit Gladys’ Instagram page.