A mother-of-one couldn’t eat or blink for five weeks after a persistent cold and a build-up of stress combined to cause total facial paralysis.
Shayna Aldrich, 34, from New York, first noticed something was wrong in January.
She had battled through a two-week virus over Thanksgiving, but then threw herself back into work, waitressing during the busiest season of the year.
Shortly after New Year, while making pizzas with her husband Patrick, 31, and eight-year-old daughter Lola, she ate an olive and remarked that it tasted like metal. She got blank stares in return.
Shayna didn’t think too much of it until she woke up the next morning, with a numb chin, and increasingly numb lips.
The next day, her entire face was paralyzed.
Shayna battled through her Thanksgiving illness but it dealt a blow to her immune system that triggered Bell’s Palsy. Shayna noticed something was wrong when she remarked that an olive tasted like metal and her daughter Lola (pictured) and husband Patrick didn’t know what she was talking about
The whole ordeal happened just months after Shayna married Patrick in August 2018 (pictured)
HOW CAN PARALYSIS BE TEMPORARY?
Paralysis can be temporary, despite widespread beliefs that it is permanent and those who are given the diagnosis will never walk again.
The term paralysis just refers to the inability to move some, or all parts, of the body, according to the NHS. It can come and go.
There are several forms of paralysis, including paraplegia (both legs), tetraplegia/quadriplegia (both arms and legs), hemiplegia (one side of the body) and monoplegia (one arm or leg).
Known causes include strokes, Bell’s palsy, serious head or spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis.
Physiotherapy can help victims regain strength and muscle mass, and help some patients to regain movement. However, recovery depends on several factors, including how severe the damage to the spinal cord is. It can take up to two years for victims to regain feeling.
Medication is given to relieve sufferers of any pain they may feel.
At Urgent Care, doctors ran tests and found she had developed a rare form of Bell’s Palsy which affected both sides of her face.
They believe Shayna’s cold had been a virus that she hadn’t shaken off, and coupled with the stress, it escalated.
Her treatment: ‘They prescribed me steroids to reduce the swelling around my nerves and basically told me it was a waiting game.
‘They estimated anywhere from two weeks up to two months or, in extreme cases, two years.’
For five weeks, Shayna’s face was paralyzed, which stopped her from being able to eat or drink normally.
She couldn’t talk properly and was unable to blink because her left eye wouldn’t close.
It would stream with water for hours until it was completely dried out.
She couldn’t spit when she brushed her teeth, and was forced onto, essentially, a baby’s diet.
The hardest thing for Shayna, though, was the reactions she got walking down the street.
They all had a good laugh at the surprising and sometimes funny effects of Shayna’s Bell’s Palsy, which she says made it bearable
For five weeks, Shayna’s face was paralyzed, which stopped her from being able to eat or drink normally. She couldn’t talk properly and was unable to blink because her left eye wouldn’t close and would stream with water for hours until it was completely dried out
The hardest thing for Shayna, though, was the reactions she got walking down the street, she said she felt like a monster. Pictured: Shayna with Lola and Patrick
Shayna’s first time smiling after Bell’s Palsy, five weeks after the paralysis began
The paralysis caused her face to droop slightly, stopping her from being able to talk to people.
‘I felt like a monster. Most of the time I tried to laugh it off, comparing myself to Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but as the weeks went on it got harder to laugh,’ said Shayna.
‘Because of my age, I think seeing my face like that made people wonder what it could be. I’m awfully young to have a stroke and since that’s what it looked like I got some quizzical looks.
‘When I say my face was paralyzed, it really didn’t move. So, when I laughed or smiled, only half of my face cooperated. That gave us quite a few laughs and laughing it off took away the fear that I wasn’t going to be OK.’
Just over a month later, she was at work when she burst out laughing and her co-workers exclaimed, saying her whole face had moved.
By that point, she was used to only half of her face showing emotion, but when she had recovered after over a month, she felt like herself again.
‘I had felt like a stranger was looking back at me in the mirror with the side effects of the steroids. It was nice to see me again.
‘People don’t really understand Bell’s Palsy until it happens to them or someone they know. If you have been diagnosed, then you aren’t alone so hang in there. Do your research, educate yourself, and above all, take care of yourself.’