Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My New Face: Living With Bell's Palsy

I'm still here, resolutely queer and able to laugh after shedding a few tears.

My life journey now takes a turn as I learn to live with Bell's palsy, a disorder of the facial control muscles and few other problems.

On Sunday and most of Monday, I thought all I was dealing with was bad pain on the back of the right side of my head and a case of oral thrush. Late Monday half of my tongue was numb and my upper right lip was slightly drooped.

After a night where my right upper eyelid wouldn't close all the way, woke up and my speech was slurred. Off to the emergency room at Davies Hospital in the Castro.

In their calm and controlled ways, the ER staff from the moment I walked in went into a quick routine. Luckily, they all know me from previous visits. No registration, ordered to sit at the vital signs station, the nurse pulling up my records without having to ask for my name, data recorded, few short questions, then led to a room.

On the way, the chief nurse greeted me with well-hidden alarm and wasted no time having me remove my shirts, ordering his aide to start heart monitoring tests and I giggled before tears fell onto my chubby cheeks.

They thought I was experiencing a stroke by the look of my face and were in urgent mode.

The ER doctor came in, introduced herself to me before asking about symptoms and HIV cocktails, latest labs, then checked my eyes and heart. We got into a friendly argument over why she was so curious about my acyclovir medication. It was because it's used to treat Bell's palsy, she said and she would soon know if that was the condition or a stroke.

A youngish hairy built hunky orderly with an almost-shaved head and tight white pants entered the room, to make me comfortable. He bent over to pick up my bag, and doing so displayed his well-developed legs and butt. Damn, what fine man-candy I saw. Lord, I thought, if this is the end, with that dude as one of the last things to see with my eyes, what a way to go!

The test results and evaluations indicated no stroke and the onset of Bell's palsy. What a relief. Knowing what was wrong with me, gave me reason to be happy, and seeing my friend Rich Gerharter come into my room to gather me and take me home.

My partner Mike returns home tomorrow morning after a much-needed vacation, I've told my biological family what's going on, I see my physician Dr. Toby Dyner in the afternoon and decided to make a video explaining what's happened to my face and my speech.

A huge shout out to all the health care professionals who take such good and rapid care of me today. It's been an emotionally raw day and glad to be here to experience it, no matter how frightening and weird it was.

And now, time for old "I Love Lucy" shows for laughter - the best medicine after love.


Anonymous said...

sorry to hear about what must of been pretty traumatic.. best wishes for a hopeful recovery.

Thinking of you xxo

Benjamin Shepard said...

Keep it going Michael! Keep on fighting buddy... keep up the struggle.

Simonpete said...

Hi Mike! Sorry to learn you're going through the wars. If it's any consolation I had the same thing and after a couple of weeks in hospital on a drip it slowly got better, though ten years later the right side of my face still lacks muscle tone and my eye's a bit droopy when eating. Very best wishes, Simon x

William Lucas Walker said...

Mike, perhaps the best, most human and least self-pitying post I've ever read about the onset of a medical condition. I'm sorry your partner Mike could not be with you at the hospital, but am glad he'll be home now to help you adjust to this new future and, as you so sweetly put it, "new face." I do think these hunky medical professionals are gifts to us all in otherwise deeply stressful circumstances. I remember being flummoxed when one of them arrived to help put my infant son in an ambulance. I'm sure you have all sorts of adjustments ahead, physical and emotional. But if this brave and typically Petrelis announcement is any indication, Bell's Palsy had better watch out.

isak said...

Dear Michael,

If people didn't know you are a strong and gentle hero before, they must certainly realize it now. I had a dear Aunt Frannie who had Bell's Palsy so I know what a hardship it can be for some. You are already more than it, and I hope with time and medicines, you can control it and reach a point when it has passed by you. If not, it is clear from your unvanquishable spirit at its onset, that it will never best you. More power to you, sweet friend. A big hug through the blogasphere. Isak

Unknown said...

Thanks for the best wishes. Gonna fight this thing as best I can.

scribemoon said...

Hey Michael, I know u from SF in the early 80s. Listen, my 98 year old aunt has Bell's Palsy. She's 98, she has some Bells Palsy. She has some digestive issues from spending her teenage years in Auschwitz.
She's 98. You can live 98+ with bells palsy. Carry on with some good televisions sitcoms... rebecca

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,
I hope you'll recover soon.
Warm regards,