by Bill Monson

Last Saturday, I was eating a dessert dish of vanilla ice cream in one of our area's leading restaurants when I was disturbed by the taste. It was salty. I put it down to an error in the kitchen and laid the dish aside.

Sunday morning, at a pre-church pancake breakfast, the syrup tasted salty. Weird, I thought. Then I was stricken with a headaches that felt like someone was drilling for oil behind my right ear. I began to slur my words. Worried, I snapped my fingers. They functioned fine. So did my right arm. At my age, however, you don't take chances with those symptoms. My wife Polly rushed me to the hospital, which is just three blocks down the street from the church.

There, the ER staff quickly gave me a checkover, complete with CAT scan. It wasn't a stroke. It was Bell's Palsy--my third attack of it!

Bell's Palsy involves the nerve that controls the muscles in the face on one side of the face. The cause is unknown but is suspected to be related to the Herpes virus that causes the chicken pox in children and shingles in adults. When you get it, one side of your face goes dead. You can't close the eye, which weeps continually, you drool, there is numbness that distorts your mouth, you become sensitive to light and sound.

Well, I had those symptoms--in spades!

It wasn't the ice cream or syrup; it was the taste buds in my tongue. The neck ache I woke up with on Saturday morning wasn't from sleeping wrong;

it was the onset of nerve inflammation.

I've been through all this before--twice--only on the left side of my face. Now, less than a year after my last attack, I've had number three.

The ER doctor was very kind and informative, and he soothed my fears. He also prescribed a medication which might work.

"Might" is the operative word. Nobody knows for sure how to deal with Bell's Palsy. Prednisone – a steroid – is often used; but that could screw up my Diabetes II so it was not a possibility. So now I'm taking Valtrex which has been used to fight Varicella Zoster virus (which has been identified as one which causes shingles as well as facial paralysis – but is actually NOT Bell's Palsy.)

So what have I got? Well, it's facial paralysis, which may be caused by Bell's Palsy or VZV, take your choice.

What do I do while the Valtrex battles inside me?

Try not to bite through my lower lip when I'm eating, chew on the left side so the food doesn't taste salty, take Tylenol for the headache pain, and get up at four a.m. to take my "every eight hours" Valtrex. I can watch a little TV but it makes my eye water. I can read large print--so I can manage the right book or even do a brief column.

This stuff isn't life threatening, which is why nobody has ever taken the time to study it thoroughly. Millions have had BP or VZV, and I've gotten through facial paralysis twice before PLUS the shingles--so I guess I'll get through this.

A friend gave me a statement from St. Paul: "Let us exult in our present sufferings, because we know that suffering trains us to endure, and endurance brings proof that we have stood the test."

Well, I'll endure – but I find it hard to exult in my suffering because I've bee re-tested so many times and apparently have not passed the test.

As far as I'm concerned, you can take this virus – whatever it is – and give it back to the chickens.