I think quite a few people these days have some story, whether completely honest or not, about how something terrible, horrible, life-changing etc, has happened to them in their life. The addition of whether or not they had overcome whatever it was that happened to them, come sometimes prevent us from believing their story. Some of my family and a few of my friends are aware of what happened to me last year that would be my terrible, horrible, life-changing etc story. I admit, this was not completely easy to write because it brought back a lot of the uncertainty and pain that bombarded me and those who saw what I was going through. I encourage you to read the piece in its entirety; 2013 has forever changed where my life may go.
One Year of Loss and Hearing Loss
Lately, I have been feeling a little down, perhaps a little behind because of events and situations that have been taking place since New Year’s. At the beginning of the year, we’re expected to make resolutions for the months to come and to, hopefully, attain our goals before the year is up. The last couple of months have been hard, but last year, almost a year ago now, came the most difficult time of my life and there was nothing I could do about it while it was happening. That being said, I still feel as though I am picking up the pieces after my dreams and goals fell apart.
The first week of March 2013, I came down with a fever of over 103F that lasted about a week, which included a complete blackout and a trip to the Emergency Room to end it. After this I thought everything would be alright, but unfortunately, it was only the beginning. By the end of the following week, I was back at the ER being admitted for overnight observation. That Saturday was the beginning of three months of hell and six months after that of recovery from being through hell.
Between Saturday and Monday morning, I developed bels palsy on the right side of my face. This is a form of facial paralysis that rarely presents in young patients and, when not treated in the first three days of showing, increasingly becomes worse until functions eventually very slowly returns. It honestly appears as though the sufferer has had a stroke; the muscles in the face become slack, puffiness presents along the jaw line and near the eye, and sometime hearing becomes reduced. Although I had told three nurses and two doctors the night I was admitted to the hospital that my face was feeling funny, my palsy went untreated and undiagnosed for a week and a half, until I saw an optometrist for my eyes which had become bright red but with no itchiness or soreness.
This amazing doctor was the sole reason I was able to receive the few answers I could be given. Not only did he diagnose my palsy but he fast tracked my appointments to see a rheumatologist and neurologist. He went above and beyond what was expected of him and I could not have made it through all that happened without his unrelenting support in attempting to discover what triggered it all in the first place. The rheumatologist confirmed that my current aches and those that I’ve been experiencing since I was ten, were not due to advancing rheumatoid arthritis, and the neurologist confirmed the diagnosis of palsy that had now completely paralyzed the right side of my face and had progressed to the left side.
It was April by this point and I was just dealing with the changes my body was going through. My feet were so swollen I couldn’t walk and when I attempted to, I couldn’t make it down the hallway without support because I was so dizzy. The excruciating pain in both sides of my neck from the palsy that should have been caught right away was unrelenting the entire time and no amount of pain killers could even begin to dull it. My appetite came and went, on top of having no use of the right side of my face and only about 30% of my left. Have you ever tried eating immediately after having your mouth frozen at the dentist? Yeah, I do not recommend it at all, and just think of having to do that for three straight months. But little did I know that something worse was on the way: I lost a decent chunk of my hearing.
Over Eater weekend, my hearing ability dropped noticeably. Sitting on a three-seat couch, I could not hear my own father who was sitting one seat away from me. We thought and hoped it was only temporary because of all the swelling and pain in my neck from the palsy. Unfortunately, upon seeing the neurologist, he said this may not have been the case and sent me to an audiologist. I am so grateful I was sent to this particular doctor because she made the experience as enjoyable as it could have been.
Once all the testing was done, audiologist began explaining my results and how in the normal range of hearing where my own hearing now was. Ever so smoothly, she informed me that I had lost about 40% hearing in both ears and that I would need hearing aids. I couldn’t help it, for obvious reasons, I broke down and began crying. She excused herself from the room to check on other patients and my mum comforted me. Being who I am, the tears lasted for a few minutes before I turned to my mum and said, “at least now I’ll have a way to ignore Caitlin [my sister]. I’ll just have to turn my ears off!” Next thing you know, my mum and I start laughing and even began having a laugh at the nasty pictures of the previous patient’s ear cannels that were completely blocked with blackened earwax and hair. The doctor, having heard us from beyond the door, opened it and said, “I’m hearing an awful lot of laughing from this room considering what I just told you.”
I’m sorry but what else could I do but laugh? Crying wasn’t going to bring back the nerves in my ears that had died. I knew right away that if I could not find humour in my situation then and there, I probably never would. I was fitted for my hearing aids and returned home to resume my recovery.
By June, the worst was over with and the use of my face was slowly (and I mean slowly!) returning. I could walk almost perfectly without becoming too dizzy and I was looking forward to returning to work. Medically, things were looking up even though through it all, I never did find out what mystery viral infection caused my fever or what caused my extreme aches or what caused my palsy to be so bad and what knocked out my hearing. To this day, I still do not know! Everything else though had been put on hold and the impact of this sickness took a higher toll than I realized.
The beginning of 2013would have been my last semester at the University of Guelph and because of becoming ill, I missed the end of my classes, I was unable to say goodbye to my friends and professors, and ended up barely scraping by in my classes that I actually enjoyed taking. I couldn’t concentrate on my writing at all and the goals I had decided to achieve at the beginning of the year. I couldn’t even begin looking for jobs that would have the potential to lead to a career in my field for fear of having a relapse. It was all I could do to convince my boss in my retail job to let me come back when I said I was feeling better.
The last year has been extremely difficult and dealing with the hearing loss is certainly something I never would have thought I’d need to deal with or explain to people at my age. Even now, and especially with this cold weather, new experiences with the increased sensitivity of my ears, I am constantly reminded of my new limitations. I have so much trouble hearing people sometimes still, whether it’s at work or my family members or taking a simple phone call. Talk about another reason to hate the phone, eh? Even with my hearing aids in, I still experience immense trouble, so I try only to use them when I really need them. I guess my hope is that I can reteach my brain and my ears to hear like I used to. It may be a foolish hope, but being young, I am entitled to do what I can to at least try to make things better on myself.
Telling people has become easier and it does help to talk about what happened, even make jokes about my hearing loss and hearing loss in general to make those around me comfortable with the idea. It has made me more protective and cautious of myself, so much so that it’s affected a couple of my relationships with those I’ve attempted to date once my recovery was further along. I am more skeptical than usual on how men may see me because of my hearing loss and the lack of career I haven’t been able to begin because of the length of time I was recovering. Perhaps even, as a couple of my closer friends have suggested, that because of all that’s happened and because of those negative thoughts towards myself, I may be dealing with depression.
I never thought about talking to someone professional about what I had gone through or now, feeling so low about it all. Sure I mentioned the off thought or two to my family and certain friends, but I never wanted to worry them. As unfair as everything was that happened to me, why would I want to put my family through it too? The more I think about talking to a therapist, the more I feel comfortable writing about posting it in blog form. Even if no one comments or messages me, or bothers to read this whole thing all the way through, I feel better having put it down on paper.
I still feel that I have missed an every important year of my life that I will never get back. I still feel alone in my condition and fear that those I meet and date may not be able to see past it. I still worry that the next time I spike a fever, it will all happen again. Having my entire face paralyzed once in my life was enough. But above all, I still feel nervous and scared I’ll let those that have helped and supported me down. I think for this year, that is my goal, my New Year’s Resolution. For now, that is the best I can promise.