Previous Bell's Palsy or Undiagnosed Hemiplegic Migraines??
Maybe what I’m about to tell you is an epiphany or maybe it’s my migrained riddled brain finally starting to let go of some key pieces of information or evidence – who knows. Regardless if it’s one or the other, I feel like I may have stumbled on something – only a visit to a neurologist and time will tell.
It was just before the turn of the millennium – I want to say 1998, maybe 1999 that I started having issues with the left side of my face going numb. I was living with big sis at the time, working as a school bus driver and it was during the summer that this happened. I woke up one morning and just noticed I couldn’t feel my face. When I told sis what was going on, she got concerned – they believed she had had a stroke around the same age I was and knew the signs. It scared the both of us so I called the guy I was seeing at the time and when he got to the house, we went to the emergency room. By the time we got there, not only did I lose feeling in my face, I lost the ability to lift my eyebrow, smile or open my eye and I was drooling. I went through an MRI, CT Scan and X-Ray, they found nothing but mentioned Bell’s Palsy and I made an appointment to see my doctor the following day.
He ran me through a series of tests and had a neurologist that was in the same office as him come in and speak with me. It was a lengthy appointment but by the time it was over, they both were in agreement with the emergency room doctors, I was suffering Bell’s Palsy (my House-Brackmann score was III which is moderate)and the only thing that I could do was rest, monitor my situation and promised to go back into the emergency room if the numbness or paralysis extended into my arm.
It was a very rough month for me, I was drooling quite a bit which embarrassed me beyond anything I had felt and when I was able to open my eye every now and then, it was dry and made it feel as if I had cut my eye somehow. I missed some time at work – not being able to open my eye caused depth perception issues and I couldn’t drive my own car, let alone a school bus. But sure enough, just as quickly as it came on it suddenly disappeared – one afternoon it seemed as if every nerve in my face exploded, the numbness went away, the paralysis later that night and I felt normal again. Another trip to my doctor for a final checkup and I was fine.
Bell’s Palsy is a temporary situation, they’re not 100% sure what causes it – some say previous head injuries, some say the herpes virus that causes cold sores and all the doctors that worked with me were pretty sure that mine was caused by a head injury I had sustained when I was 19 – I had to have seven stitches in my forehead (left side) and sustained a moderate concussion as well. Mine lasted a full month, some it lasts only a few days, some it lasts longer and I remember thanking my lucky stars that I was given such a break – if my Bell’s had continued further it would have threatened my CDL. The only unanswered question was why it had waited so long for the Bell’s to appear but this is the head and brain we’re discussing.
Since that time, I’ve had other instances of the Bell’s reoccurring, or I should say that I thought that it reoccurred but now I’m not so sure. At the time, it made sense – there were no other symptoms to point to a stroke nor was there any headache or migraine – it was just the paralysis and numbness. But, since my stroke and now the hemiplegic migraines I’ve had to look back at my past medical history with a new set of eyes and I catch myself wondering if the times I thought my Bell’s had reoccurred if I wasn’t in the middle of a hemiplegic and that the stroke seemed to ramp up the rest of the symptoms associated with it. I never bothered going to a doctor when it reoccurred, I knew what I was feeling and that it would go away and it usually did within a day or two. I just got used to the crawling numbness that would start in my scalp and run into my cheekbone and knew ‘aw crap, it’s back again’. Even now as I write this after coming off a three day stretch of migraines due to the weather being incredibly gross, that numbness is crawling around on my scalp and cheek – it’s so deep today I can even feel my eyeball go numb. My old way of thinking would say ‘aw crap, it’s back again’ but my new way of thinking is just….okay, could this be a hemiplegic without a headache?
I’ve made a note in my journal about the Bell’s Palsy and I am going to start documenting those moments of crawling numbness – something I hadn’t done to this point because I thought it was the Bell’s. I’m also going to talk to my doctor next month when I go in for my anti-depressant re-evaluation. I still can’t get to a neurologist, Medicaid is still taking their time with my case and I just reapplied for my SSDI – as usual, I’m stuck in thick mud and can’t move until someone else does but the way I see it, if it’s documented somewhere it’s better than nothing.
When it comes to planning vacations or other events where travel is required, how much does migraine factor into your decision-making?