I’d like to think I was missed by my legions of fans but unfortunately not a single call came into the station wondering where Andy West has been. I understand. I’m still fairly new here and I’m only on the air a couple of hours per day. For the record though, Erin and Kenny Jones have been covering my 9a-11a time slot because I’ve had Bell’s Palsy. Up until I was diagnosed with it a couple of weeks ago I had heard the term but had no idea what it was. To my surprise more folks than not are familiar with this affliction.
If you’re not familiar it is technically a virus that lives dormant within either anyone who has had Chicken Pox (similar to how shingles does) or anyone who has had Herpes Simplex 1. Fortunately I’ve never had Herpes (to which my friends have replied jokingly “suuuuure you haven’t”) but I did have Chicken Pox when I was 5. So about 3 weeks ago I started getting these red sores on my tongue, then the glands in my neck started swelling up. A couple of days later I was drinking a mocha frappe and noticed that my lip felt fat. Later that same day I started to lose the ability to control the muscles in the left side of my face. Concerned about a possible stroke I went to Stockton Urgent Care. The doctor asked me to smile (only the right side of my face was working by this time) then he asked me if I could move my left arm and leg, which was no problem. He immediately told me I had Bell’s Palsy.
This virus attacks and creates inflamation in what is called the “7th cranial nerve”. You have one that runs through the base of your skull on either side and branches out into the nerves that control your cheek muscles. Once inflamed the muscles on that side of your face becomes paralyzed. Try to lift both eyebrows, only one goes up. Try to smile and only one side curls up (photo above)… kind of like a motley pirate. You can’t blink which is probably the most annoying thing because, in my case, my eye was constantly watering with any slight wind or breeze on the eyeball. Eating was fun too. I was constantly dribbling and had to press the food out of the area between the teeth and cheek on the left side of my mouth. Speaking was difficult… particularly any word that started with B, P, F or V. “Continuous Country Favorites and Fun was especially hilarious as I sound like Sylvester the Cat.
It’s amazing the simple things you take for granted like drinking from a bottle without having to press your lip up against the bottom so you don’t dribble on yourself. Or just being out in public. At home or at work everyone knows me so I wasn’t particularly self-conscious but at the grocery store I kept my head down and barely spoke because I realize to them I probably seemed handicapped. I know it wasn’t my fault but I felt embarrassed. The lesson there is to be kind to others because you have no idea what issues they might be dealing with. For the most part I’ve kept my sense of humor. Some of the jokes were a bit insensitive… not to me mind you because I thought they were hilarious (I won’t repeat them here) but to someone more self-conscious or sensitive they might have been offensive. Of course it was probably a lot funnier to me because I knew that for most folks this is a temporary condition. I will share that my boss mentioned, since I was going to Vegas the day after I found out I had this that no one will be able to read my poker face, lol.
The vast majority of folks who typically recover within 2 weeks to a few months. For me it’s been 15 days but I’m just now regaining the ability to slightly move the muscles in the left side of my face. I can now say most words without sounding like I’m drunk and I plan to be back on the air Monday right after the DJ Walker in the morning Show!