the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Category: temporary facial paralysis

The Bell’s Palsy diet. Extreme (but effective)…

Last Wednesday the NHS in Devon announced that they were restricting elective surgery for those who were morbidly obese. This was amongst a number of measures that they hoped would go some way towards having reduce their deficit of £14.5 million. Which kind of makes sense if you think about it. Someone needing elective surgery – that is a planned surgical procedure not an emergency – you would think would have a vested interest in maximizing their chances of a successful outcome. You might also think, that given that two-thirds of Britons are overweight and that the change needed to effect better surgical outcomes requires simple lifestyle choices, exactly how comfortable can comfort eating be when one is culinary challenged, the challenge being to say “No!” to food.

(At this point I must point out that I have very little sympathy for people who are no stranger to the light of the fridge at midnight and who consequently look like a bin bag full of yoghurt. If you find this and other comments about the abstemiously challenged distasteful – no, no, no, too obvious – I ask you this. Exactly which part of the first line I ever wrote on my first post did you not understand??)

Therefore in this spirit of wishing to do a public good I give reveal free to the world a revolutionary – some might say unorthodox – approach to dieting. It’s extreme but I say no to the wishy-washy and yes to the demonstrably effective. Because far too many fat people look as if there’s a thin person inside them waiting to get out, the problem being that they look like they’ve eaten the thin person. With this diet ones ability to consume what one used to is severely restricted. This state of affairs is however, not one you can opt out of and can last for some months. Ladles and jellypoons I give you the Bells Palsy diet.

Whilst I concede that temporary facial paralysis might be seen as a radical – some might say idiosyncratic – means to lose weight, as it can potentially be necessitated by having one of your eyes taped shut – seeing things properly isn’t really an argument against it. And not only does it reduce ones ability to eat, it also reduces ones desire to eat as well. It’s a win/win situation (or maybe that should be a thin/thin situation?) The N.H.S could deliberately infect people with it; namely the people you hope don’t sit in front of you on a long flight. With Bells Palsy, if you are lucky one side of your mouth is as much use as a eunuch at an orgy. By this I mean one side of the mouth is effectively on strike. The first intimation I had that anything was wrong with my face was a couple of Sundays ago, was when I was attempting to spit out some mouthwash. It felt like when one is at the dentists and the dentist has finished and invites you to gargle with some mouthwash and you spit it into a bowl provided. Even though you are consciously aware that your mouth has been numbed, you foolishly think it can’t be that bad. Until that is, you realize the mouthwash is dribbling down your chin.

Consequently, I eat only soft food and only then food that has been cut up into small chunks that I then carefully place in the right side of my mouth. If for some reason some the food makes a dash to the left side of my mouth then by a combination of either tilting my head to the right, or by a suction motion borne out of necessity, whereby I maneuver the errant food back on the right side of the mouth. However this suction motion proves that the law of unintentional consequences is undeniably true. Because when I engage in this suction, the noise that is produced invariably leads to what Avril calls ‘mouth farts.’ This occasions much hilarity on her part, but which for some reason I fail to see the funny side of. (Which is ironic, given that I frequently make much ruder and personal comments about her, yet expect her not to be in a grump about. Although to be fair, she hardly ever does.) And because I have no control of the left side of my mouth, food can get stuck there, without me always being aware. Therefore, I wash my teeth in the shower, for reasons of practicality when you consider the dentist comparison of my mouth action given previously.

One of the other less edifying aspects of temporary facial paralysis is that when you do manage to eat it can often feel as if I’m trying to paint using only my feet to hold the brushes; messy, humiliating and ultimately frustratingly annoying, with effort not matching reward. Having only one fully operational eye – because Bell’s Palsy also limits my spatial awareness – is much the same as having a blind spot, so as the eating utensil gets closer to your mouth, the less of the business end of it you can see. Thus it becomes a very messy affair and soon you grow bored of wearing and not eating your food. This again could be of some benefit to people who look like barrels with arms. Because, as we all know, a diet can be summed up in four words; eat less, do more. Everything else is just garnish, which of course you can eat on a diet because they’re low in calories. Another painful lesson concerns the exiting of what goes in. By necessity I can only eat soft foods, which by definition are not high in fibre with, wholly predictable results. (If any does know of a soft food that’s high in fibre, I implore you from the heart of my bottom to share your knowledge in the comment section) So Matthew has been making me high fibre smoothies which are not as worthily tasteless as they sound, containing as they do raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, various seeds, bananas, apples and orange juice. Right now I’ve urgently to take the kids to the pool because I can feel the smoothie working…..

I know I wrote a few posts back that the next series of posts would be about me coping with Bell’s Palsy, and I meant it then but I’m bored now, so next time…How the maxim ‘charity begins at home’ is true in the case of Bono, with his Dublin mansion, New York apartment (and not forgetting his beachfront villa on the French Riviera….)

Whereupon I’m taken by ambulance to hospital and proceed to impersonate a swan….

Undoubtedly, what will follow will contain many grammatical errors and mistakes, but once you are familiar with the cause of them, I’m hopeful of your tolerant indulgence.

For my last blog I had planned to highlight Ed Milliband’s absurd posturing with regard to the minimum wage, and also was also planning to use this snippet of Howard Beale to illustrate the dire economic times in which we live. Futhermore, I was also planning to rename Ed Milliband as Dead Wood, and thus compare him to Ed Wood, the film director, famous for making some of the worst films in Hollywood history. For this blog I was planning to elucidate upon the dichotomy of being offered rehabilitation when are you are least in the mood for it but then as John Lennon so famously observed, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. Which seems a highly apt line, given what did happen.

On Sunday 16th November, I was taken by ambulance to my local hospital (some context might be needed here!) Earlier that morning when I’d been brushing my teeth I noticed that one side of my mouth wasn’t working properly. For some wholly inexplicable reason I didn’t think this needed mentioning. Later on in the day Avril came over, took one look at my face and pronounced that something was wrong with it. I immediately thought ’Look who’s talking!’ but I could see the look of well intentioned concern on her face and as both she and Blue Eyes – my housemate who seems to (misguidedly!) think I am somehow worthy of her energy – examined my facial features. I knew that something wasn’t quite right, a feeling only heightened by being offered an Asprin! Doing what anyone who’s feeling a bit poorly is wont do, I repaired immediately to bed.

Avril took the opportunity to phone my local out of hours G.P and having explained the situation – namely that the left side of my face had seemed to lose all muscle integrity, she was advised to phone up NHS direct. This she did, only to be faced with a dilemma when asked to state her relationship to me. Avril and myself don’t discuss such matters, as I believe that if you engage in interminable discussions about the exact nature of your relationship one ends up destroying the thing one wanted to discuss. This puts me in mind of a conversation I had with a support worker Julie some time ago. Julie had enquired as to what exactly the nature of my relationship with Avril was. “Were we a couple?” she asked. I phoned up Avril and repeated the question that Julie had asked me. I left a suitable pause and then said “I told her yes, that we’re a couple, a couple of c*nts!” Julie was understandably unsure whether to laugh at his or not, but the bellowing laugher that gushed from the phone reassured her.  Avril has on many occasions said that the day she met me was the worst day of her life and that I am her nemesis. Equally, she has also said that I’m an emotional psychopath. Avril said nothing of this to NHS direct instead resorting to the simple and understandable moniker of partner. Describing my symptoms they in turn advised her to phone the London Ambulance Service. She phoned them and soon an ambulance was dispatched. I can’t fault the ambulance crew. Their calm, assured professionalism had an immediate restorative effect, which I immediately dispelled, when in the ambulance I remarked to Avril that the last time she’d been in an ambulance with me I’d flat lined and nearly died. Understandably she wasn’t keen to reminisce upon that experience.

After the short journey to my local A&E I bypassed the waiting room and was instead placed in the treatment area where upon the ambulance crew gave a handover report to the sister on duty. After a couple of minutes I was shown into a cubicle. Then the fun really started! First of all a nurse came and asked me to raise up my t-shirt to which she exclaimed “You’ve got chest hair, this will hurt!” As she applied sticky pads at various points on my chest and abdomen, she then got a tangle mess of cables and then deftly connected each cable to a sticker. There was a machine behind my head onto which the information from my body was being displayed. Thankfully I couldn’t see it.

A doctor came to see me sometime later and Avril explained more of what she had seen and that I had experienced a severe brain injury sometime before, in case the doctor thought that all of my current symptoms were a result of this present episode. A nurse then entered and took my blood pressure. It was higher than on the previous two other occasions and I thought, ‘What the f*ck is my body doing to me?” As good luck would have it, it was about this time that Blue Eyes appeared. A little later on the doctor arrived with a consultant and they were both peering into my face with a look of dispassionate professionalism combined with a learning opportunity. What I was suffering from was either neurological or viral, they concluded, and the only way to establish for certain either way was to order a CT scan. I was whisked out of A&E and into a clinical decision unit where I waited for my CT scan. Avril joined me up there amazed to find out that I’d already had my CT scan. Then Blue Eyes returned with the wholly welcome news that an inability to close one eye independent of the other was a sign of Bell’s palsy. Up until then I’d been fearful that it had to mean a stroke and was doing a good impersonation of a swan – above the water all calm serenity but below the water furious activity.

In my case, exuding stoicism, but feeling petrified (of which more in the posts to follow). News that there was a possibility that it might not be a stroke is hard to over emphasise exactly how much relief that gave. Then another consultant came back with the results of my CT scan and asked if it was alright for Avril and Blue Eyes to hear the results. And I thought, these two who have done so much for me so selflessly and tirelessly, of course they have every right. This thought was highlighted by the occupant of the bed a few away form me (but not, as it turned out, phew enough!), who was having the loudest and most pungent enema, one that should not be experienced in an confined space. The consultant explained that the CT scan had proved that it wasn’t a stroke and that it was Bell’s palsy– a condition that affects facial muscles, resulting in temporary paralysis on one side of the face. She asked me a load of questions but being able to see a way out by just answering “No.” to everything she asked – thereby minimizing the likelihood of prolonged interrogation and the possibility an overnight stay – this seemed the most prudent course of action.

Eventually I was discharged and sent home.

Now hopefully you’ll understand if there are any errors or mistakes in the above account. Whilst I wrote in my opening blog that I would alternate between topics of wider relevance and topics relating only to me, given that this has happened to me, I think this is more worthy of your time than reading about me pontificating about wider issues. So the next few blog entries will be taken up with this, my ‘fun’ with temporary facial paralysis.

And also, because the Bell’s palsy affects my eyesight quite grievously, rendering me temporarily unable to look at a computer screen for any significant amount of time, what you are reading, and until further notice, will have been dictated.