I was at work yesterday afternoon when my husband called. I'd talked to him earlier in the day, but this time he had alarming news: he thought he might have had a stroke.
I questioned him closely and learned that he'd been noticing numbness and loss of muscle control on one side of his face since the previous morning. Why he didn't mention it sooner, I can't imagine. I wanted him to go immediately to the emergency room but he resisted, even though I insisted that time is of the essence when someone has a stroke. I looked up the phone number for Ask-A-Nurse and got him to agree to call them and then call me right back.
As I waited for a return call, I paced back and forth next to my desk. My phone rang and my husband said, "Come home."
After a white-knuckle drive home in which I broke the speed limits of every road I was on, I got him in the car and headed to the hospital. On the way, I quizzed him about his symptoms and found out that he wasn't experiencing any weakness in the arm or leg on that side. "It might be Bell's Palsy," I suggested.
He said the nurse on the phone had said the same thing and asked how I knew about Bell's Palsy. I told him what I always tell him in situations like that, "I know everything. When are you going to realize that?"
If you can't joke in a crisis, when can you joke?
During check-in at the emergency room, another nurse brought up Bell's Palsy, and, sure enough, the doctor confirmed that diagnosis. He still ordered an EKG, blood tests and a CAT scan because my husband is diabetic and has high blood pressure, but all of the tests ruled out a stroke.
We were in and out of the hospital in about two hours, which must be some kind of emergency room record. Even before we did the paperwork and presented our insurance card, the care was swift and the staff very friendly and considerate.
They put my husband on an anti-viral and a steroid, both with lengthy, insanely convoluted dosing schedules that caused me to have to draw a chart to make sure he doesn't miss any doses. In most people, the worst symptoms subside within 2-3 weeks. Chances are, he'll make a full recovery in a few months.
The nurse taped his droopy eye shut and he'll have to put in eye drops frequently whenever his eye is open. There's no immediate remedy for the droopy side of his mouth - even with a straw he still dribbles when he drinks.
Neither the doctor nor the Internet could provide much insight into how someone gets Bell's Palsy. My husband has a cold right now, so it's possible that the same virus caused inflammation in the cranial nerve that produces the symptoms. Or it could be something else. Who knows?
I'm so relieved that he has something relatively minor that I hardly know what to think. Sure, I'll have to drive him around for a while until he can ditch the eye patch, but that's a small price to pay. Whew.