Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Normally I would write about the Ohio and Texas primaries today, but the goalposts didn’t move much, so I’ll let it slide. Although somebody really needs to talk about the Saturday Night Life effect one of these days. But I’ve got other fish to fry right now.

It started last night. I was doing a newsroom live shot and my left eye was blinking furiously, but my right eye stayed completely open. It looked quite freaky. Afterwards I noticed that I was unable to completely shut my right eye.

When I awoke this morning, the whole right side of my face was pretty much paralyzed. Toothpaste dripped out of my mouth as I tried to brush my teeth. Attempts to smile resulted in an odd looking facial contortion worthy of The Penguin. Furthermore, my right ear was extremely sensitive to sound and all food I attempted to eat tasted like cardboard.

Idiot that I am, I actually showed up to work today. My boss said, “How are you doing today?”

I answered, “I think the right side of my face is paralyzed.”

“Then what are you doing here? Go to a doctor.”

I turned around and walked out the door, and thus ended my shortest day of work in recent memory.

A few hours later I was in a doctor’s office. She told me I had Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy is an inflammation of the facial nerve that leaves portions of the face paralyzed. The diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy is basically the medical equivalent of shrugged shoulders. They do a bunch of tests, and if they can’t prove any other cause, you’ve got Bell’s Palsy. Nobody knows what causes it. Nobody knows how to cure it. And it most likely will just go away even if you do nothing.

So I left the doctor’s office with a prescription for some powerful steroids and some tape. The drugs are to try to get the nerve less irritated, and the tape is for my eye. Really, my eye. I can’t shut my eye, and that can damage it when I sleep. So now I have to tape it shut before I go to bed. For further protection, I have to wear sunglasses anytime I go outside and, wait for it, wear safety glasses at all other times.

Oh I do cut a rather ridiculous character right now. I’m wandering around in public, drooling, while wearing safety glasses. And there’s all this crap on my face. That happened while trying to eat at my local Subway Sandwich location earlier today.

Eating is extremely hard when you have access to only half your mouth. Food kept on getting stuck in the paralyzed side. I actually had to dig huge uneaten chunks of the sandwich out of my mouth with my fingers. It was completely disgusting. Then there was the issue of the mayo. It kept getting smeared all over my face as I tried to eat. The whole time I kept praying nobody in the store recognized me.

But let’s move on to the steroids for a moment. They have a lot of side effects, but none of them include playing left field for the San Francisco Giants. That’s a different kind of steroids, I’m afraid.

Nope these steroids make you sleepless and insane. With today’s sandwich, I washed down eight of these steroid pills. I’m told they may make me manic, or depressed. I’m likely to lose sleep and be aggressive and quick to anger. Did I mention fat? A lot of people who take this drug begin having an insatiable appetite. One guy gained 60 pounds during treatment. I'm hoping to get the rare side effect of what's described as a severe case of "extreme sense of well being."

Apart from drugs and silly glasses, I have to start doing facial exercises. I’m still looking for directions on what exactly I’m supposed to do, but I’m told it involves making a lot of silly faces. I’m hoping to invite one of our news photographers over while I do these exercises and turn them into a moving sweeps piece called “My Left Face: Matthew Workman’s Heroic Recovery From Bell’s Palsy.” (My right face is the one that’s paralyzed, but the title sounds better this way.)

Being diagnosed with a palsy raises many issues. First off, I never really pictured myself as a “palsy” kind of guy. Palsies seem so Old Testament. Furthermore, having a partially paralyzed face means that the classic schoolyard taunt, “your face is broken,” is actually medically accurate for me right now.

I’ve done a little snooping online, and found that George Clooney suffered from Bell’s Palsy while in junior high (it earned him the nickname “Frankenstein”). So perhaps a side effect of this illness will be excessive handsomeness. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien also had the palsy… so the illness clearly has different effects on different people.

The most comforting thing about all this is that all symptoms usually go away in a week or two. So this odd state of affairs won’t go on forever… hopefully. In the meantime, if you see a drooling man wearing safety glasses while acting aggressively and making weird facial gestures, be kind to him. He’s had a rough week.

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At 2:59 am, Blogger Birchsprite said...

Poor thing! I hope it passes soon! I am ashamed to admit that the photo did give me a little chuckle but I felt bad right away!

At 3:15 am, Blogger Workman said...

It's OK to laugh. The photo is pretty funny.

At 4:44 am, Blogger The Morgan Family said...

honestly i thought the photo was a joke... sorry. over here our local meteorologist had bells palsy and he got to stay home for a month (with pay!). it might be worth a mention to your news director.

At 5:16 am, Blogger The Morey Family from Rochester said...

Shows you how much your family knows. I thought you were just mugging for the camera as well. As much as I would have liked to have seen your Subway experience, I just hope it clears up sooner rather than later. You don't need another Guy Smiley/Jabba the Hut head shot. :-)

At 8:00 am, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

How about, "Workman's Quest for the Right Face"?

Hope it clears up soon, all the same. I'm amazed by the sense of humor you're maintaining about this — though I feel kind of bad about laughing at a guy with Bell's Palsy...

At 8:03 am, Anonymous patatomic said...

Wait...let me get this straight:

You went to Subway?

Seriously though, sorry to hear this. My mom has a mild case of the Bell's. I hope it goes away soon.

At 11:03 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt, I know exactly what you are going through and it sucks big time. I got hit with Bells about a year and a half ago -- the whole left side of my face was paralyzed for a couple of weeks. I thought I was having a stroke when it hit. Not fun, to say the least. On the plus side, you'll never be able to do a better Billy Idol lip snarl. With the steroids etc., I started getting movement back after about 2 weeks, and by about 3 weeks, I was basically back to normal. Good luck. Email me if you want to chat about this offline. I'm still with MoFo.

Eric O

At 12:37 pm, Blogger Ellen said...

Wow! What a pain. And sooo frustrating that there's not really anything anyone can do. Being the control freak that I am... I would go nuts.

One of our anchors here: Carole Mikita, got bells palsy last year. She was off the air for 2 weeks and then came back and voiced pkgs for a week before she went back to anchoring. Now she's fine... totally like it never happened.

I say milk it and take a relaxing trip somewhere!

You'll be back to your old self, and back into your old routine in no time!

At 1:59 pm, Blogger jon deal said...

Don't forget about the mess of mayo on your face, too. We'll watch out for that as well.

Hope it goes away soon!

At 2:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Billy with Bells?



At 2:36 pm, Blogger imitate said...

Hmm, it seems writing of one's deficiencies gains a lot of response. I'm sorry about the Bell's. My boss has it, too. He still drools a little, but he's also kind of old....

In semi-related news, I almost wrote a blog last week calle "My Left Boob" (and it actually is the left one). It seems I'm a bit out of proportion (and when I say "a bit", I'm lying. It's kind of more of "a lot".) Needless to say, buying Intimates has become something of a difficulty for me. Not as challenging as mayo on my face, but we all have our trials....

Anyway, I'm sorry to hear about it. I hope you're back to normal soon. Oh, and I don't know that I'd say Carole Mikita is "back to normal", as I have hesitation with both the words "back" and "normal" in her case.

The real question is, how are your kids taking it?? :-)

At 5:45 am, Blogger Darrell said...

You are the third person I've known with Bell's Palsy. The other gys are perfectly fine. One has a sense of humor about it. The other does not. If you can convince them to do a sweeps piece, you won't have to take any sick days. So, jump right on that.
By the way, I love the title of Matthews "search for the right face." You'll be fine.

At 2:05 am, Blogger Suree said...

Hey ....

Even i am having this bells palsy now .... just now coming from the hospital.... yesterday i was so tensed that this may be a serious thing,

How manydays it took to recover....

Hope i will recover soon


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