Here's an update in the ongoing saga of my mystery illness. Its a lengthy post and kind of like a bad episode of "House, M.D.", but if you're interested, make yourself comfortable and read on.
As I mentioned yesterday, I had a call in to the doctor to see if I needed to come in again. When I finally spoke with her, she said, yes, I did need to be seen but unfortunately she would be out of the office. She scheduled me in with one of her perfectly capable associates.
This time, the focus was more on the ear lobe than the lymph node, resulting in a change of antibiotics, a high-powered ointment and thankfully, some pain medication. Official diagnosis: post-auricle cellulitis (an infection of the tissure surrounding the ear).
I was optimistic that I would take/apply the meds, and fall into a deep, hydrocodone-induced sleep. I just knew that when I awoke, I would be pain-free and the swelling would be reduced enough to venture out into public without frightening small children.
But no. While the ointment did seem to provide a little relief to the raw area behind my protruding earlobe, the pain medicine did not even touch my discomfort. I tossed and turned all.night.long. I finally fell asleep about 6:15 a.m.
When I awoke three hours later, I stumbled to the kitchen to get my customary first-thing-in-the-morning Diet Coke. But when I started to take a sip, I had the oddest sensation. You know that feeling when you've been to the dentist and he puts your gums to sleep, but your tongue and lips are also affected? Yes. That was the feeling. Only I hadn't been to the dentist.
The doctor on Friday had been very adamant that she would be working the Saturday clinic and if I needed anything to come back. I felt this merited a return trip.
Upon our arrival, I was immediately referred to the Emergency Room. I guess something about the severe swelling and numbness affecting the entire right side of my face caused the clinic personnel to think I might need a little more in depth medical attention.
I haven't spent a lot of time in Emergency Rooms and I've never been there on my own behalf. So now I am at the mercy of a third medical professional who, of course, disregards either of the previous diagnoses.
"We're going to do some tests," he says. The lab comes in to draw blood. No surprise. Someone else comes in to do a Strep culture. Pretty routine. Next, however, a nice man arrived with a wheelchair to take me to get a CT Scan. When the doctor said "tests", I didn't know this is what he was referring to. A little intimidating...because I've never had one. Only seen them on episodes of ER when they are diagnosing a brain tumor or a construction workers' cranium has been impaled by metal re-barre.
Turns out a CT Scan's not really that bad, except for the part where they tell you, "Don't breathe or swallow." Something about the power of suggestion, because suddenly I needed to take a breath and swallow. Then there's that "warm sensation" when they shoot die or something into your IV. I'm glad the technician warned me, otherwise I would have thought I'd wet my pants.
To make a long story short (I know, too late for that) I DO NOT have Strep, mono, an abscess in a lymph node, a brain tumor or re-barre. What I do have now is Bells Palsey, a temporary paralysis of the face caused by trauma to the 7th cranial nerve. Probably, the extensive swelling of my lymph node put undue pressure on the nerve and I woke up after 3 hours of sleep with the right side of my face almost completely paralyzed. The prognosis is good. The paralysis peaks within 48 hours of onset and does not spread or get worse. Full muscle control usually returns within 2 weeks. (I'm sure someone out there probably has a horror story about Bells Palsey and their aunt's sister-in-law's cousin, but I'd appreciate it if you'd kindly keep that to yourself.)
So I'm on steroids for the next two weeks and the pain medicine they gave me at the hospital helped tremendously. Just now, as HannahKate went to bed she asked, "So are you going to church tomorrow?" I told her, "If I feel like this tomorrow, I'm going to church. But since I've woken up to a different set of symptoms every day since Wednesday, let's just wait and see."
And so, we will wait and see...