A Tender Mercy

My 13-year-old daughter came down with Bell’s Palsy last weekend. I was reeling a bit from the diagnosis and the off-hand comment that this might take “awhile” to go away. Middle school is hard enough without a partially paralyzed face; the humiliation and awkward moments caused by it are painful to contemplate.

When the PA stepped out to find the doctor and consult about the need for a neurologist, I turned to my daughter. I was grasping at straws when I asked her, “Did your father’s blessing say anything about you being sick this year? I don’t remember it saying anything about you being sick.”

“No, Mom,” she said with her sloping, half-smile. “It just said that I’d be embarrassed sometimes.”

Yes, now I recall. In August, she was told that there would be embarrassing moments in seventh grade, but that it would be okay—because she is a good girl, a righteous girl. Her Heavenly Father is proud of her. He is never embarrassed by her.

A moment of gratitude for sweet girls, inspired husbands, and loving Fathers. The foreknowledge and the promise cushion the blow immeasurably.

29 comments for “A Tender Mercy

  1. I had Bell’s years ago, Kylie, and it only lasted for several days.
    I believe it has something to do with the herpes virus, or am I wrong? I wonder if she’d benefit from antiviral drugs.

    This is a lovely post–your daughter has wonderful parents. She’ll be okay.

  2. Thanks. I’ve now heard from a handful of people who’ve said the exact thing as you, and it makes us hopeful. Unfortunately I’ve also heard a few horror stories about months of struggling.

    They said it can be caused by many different things, including the virus that causes cold sores and herpes. Anti-viral drugs are the next step, if steroids don’t work. They were concerned about some side effects.

  3. Kylie,
    I am an RN and was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy a couple of years ago. I did quite a bit of research on it at the time and will paste a few excerpts here of the data I collected.
    “Most people with Bell’s palsy (about 80 percent) recover within a few weeks or months. Among those who don’t recover fully, the face may continue to be weak on the affected side and droop. About one person in 60 will experience Bell’s palsy at some point in their lifetimes.
    “In about 80 percent of cases, Bell’s palsy resolves completely within three months. However, 15 percent of patients will experience facial asymmetry, and 5 percent will show persistent neurologic impairment or disfigurement (Brody R et al 1999; Lambert T 2004).
    “Besides antiviral drugs, the standard treatment for Bell’s palsy is corticosteroids such as prednisone. These drugs have been shown to reduce inflammation of the facial nerve, which minimizes compression and damage (Adour KK et al 1996), although a few studies have found that steroids are ineffective (Salinas RA et al 2004). Some studies have also suggested that antivirals are effective only if prescribed early in the disease course (Lejeune D et al 2002).
    “A number of alternative or complementary therapies have been studied for Bell’s palsy. Many people believe that facial massage will help relieve the condition, although there is evidence that facial massage will not help (Kasper DL et al 2005). Acupuncture combined with exercise therapy has been shown to increase therapeutic effect, with a cure rate of 66.7 percent among people on combined therapy compared with a cure rate of 46.7 percent in a control group (Qu Y 2005).
    Vitamin B12 has also been documented to improve the symptoms of Bell’s palsy. In one study, three groups of patients were tested: one received methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), one received corticosteroids, and the third received methylcobalamin in combination with corticosteroids. At the end of the study, the patients in both methylcobalamin groups showed much greater improvement in their symptoms than those in the corticosteroid group (Jalaludin MA 1995).
    “One older case report described successful treatment of chronic Bell’s palsy with vitamin B12 injections of 500 to 1,000 mcg given every one to two days. A more recent trial compared the effect of 500 mcg of injected vitamin B12 (in the form of methylcobalamin) given three times weekly for at least eight weeks—steroid medication, or both. Researchers found significantly faster recovery in the groups given B12 injections with or without steroids, compared to those given steroids alone. These findings agree with earlier reports on the effectiveness of methylcobalamin injections for Bell’s palsy. It is unlikely that oral vitamin B12 would be similarly effective. People seeking B12 injections should consult a physician.”
    A direct quote from the study referenced:
    “”After the first week of treatment, both the methycobalamin and the methycobalamin-plus-steroid group (groups 2 & 3)had improved significantly, whereas the seteroid group (group 1) showed slight, but not statistically significant improvement. After three weeks of treatment, almost all of the patients in groups 2 and 3 had completely recovered and group 1 had begun to show significant improvement.”

    My neurologist put me on steroids without much success. (Not to mention all the awful side effects, such as not being able to sleep. I highly recommend melatonin for this side-effect) I then did my own research and asked him to prescribe B12 shots. They have to be obtained from a compounding pharmacy, which can be a little tricky to find. I recovered within a few weeks and have no residual effects of Bells. I would be happy to send you copies of the studies I read.

  4. There may be many causes.
    Jerry Pournelle had Bell’s palsy last year as a result of a brain tumor, and he fully recovered.
    Given the state of medicine today it would be a good idea for you to study up on it. It isn’t that the doctors aren’t trying to help they are just too specialized and aren’t as motivated as you are to help your daughter.
    It will also be a good time to learn what real friends are like and who they are.

  5. The wise adult in me agrees with you, Stephan F. The mom in me can’t help but cringe to think of her shy daughter learning about people who aren’t her real friends. Or, better but still painful, the people who are just insensitive–as we all are at times, I suppose.

  6. Kylie – What a great story. Your husband’s blessing obviously resonated with your daughter if she could remember specific phrases such as that. And you daughter’s acceptance of life’s challenging moments with such obvious faith and understanding is inspirational. But your recognizing this tender mercy as an expected part of life is the most remarkable. Your post just made my day better.

  7. Kylie,
    I posted a reply to your post a couple of hours ago but my comments are stuck in moderation for some reason (maybe they are too long?) Anyway, I have some experience with Bells Palsy which I would be happy to share if you would like to email me at [email protected]

  8. Ohh, I can relate to looking different in middle school. When I was a very shy 14-year-old, I had to wear a big, very obvious back brace to treat an abnormal curvature in my spine. It was a painful experience (emotionally, not physically), but now I wouldn’t trade what I learned that year for anything.

  9. My Dad suffered for several months with Bell’s Palsy as his troop ship landed in Japan, on their way to the Korean War. He stayed back in Japan, working secretarial duties. His battalion’s first battle was Pork Chop Hill, and only about 15 of his battalion survived that fight.
    So, sometimes, Bell’s Palsy is a blessing in disguise.

  10. I’m going to have my daughter read these comments when she comes home from school. You people are wonderful.

  11. I have a friend in my old stake who had Bell’s. She dealt with it for a number of months but now, a few years later, has almost no remaining problems.

    Prayers for your daughter. It’s so sad that our greatest concerns might need be about how others will treat her than how the illness will. Double prayers for the other kids to be kind and charitable.

    I didn’t have some illness or deformity, was just a chubby, freckled, red-head with glasses. (Triple threat.) Unlike #7, I’d gladly give up what I learned from those experiences. I prefer learning things by, oh, reading scriptures, having angelic visitations, stuff like that.

    BTW, Kylie, your posts are always in a different font. This one is kind of hard to read on my browser. If you go into the HTML tab on WordPress you can strip the formatting so it returns to the default. :)

  12. What a tender post, at a tender time.

    I was the flat-chested, mousy, geeky tomboy with a head gear. I understand a little of what it’s like to feel different, even mocked. Give your daughter hugs from many of us who struggled for various reasons in junior high. Just let her know she’s not alone in having it be hard, and that there are lots of people rooting for her who can look back and say that we survived junior high. :)

  13. Her Heavenly Father is proud of her. He is never embarrassed by her.

    And honestly, which one of us doesn’t sometimes need to hear this? It brought tears to my eyes. What a tender, loving Father we have!

  14. Sorry about readability, Alison. I’ll fix it up next time.

    Alison and m&m–so true about junior high. I had frizzy hair, the wrong jeans, glasses, and no athletic ability. Perhaps we should be praying for all girls (and boys) in junior high. There’s just no winning.

  15. It’s good sometimes for us to try on difference, or have it put on us, and it’s good sometimes for others to consider difference when they meet with it in us.

    It opens up possibilities.

    What your daughter has here is the prospect of adventure. And it sounds like she can handle it.

  16. Just curious, is there a girl anywhere who doesn’t spend most of seventh grade embarrassed?

    I hope your daughter is on the other side of this as quickly as possible.

  17. In 7th grade, newly entered into junior high, I found myself placed in “Adaptive PE” because of incipient scoliosis. Being in Adaptive PE was generally seen among my peers as being just one step up from being in “Special Ed”. Fortunately, I quickly made friends with another student in the class, an 8th grader named Andy Bos who seemed totally unfazed by the mockery and in fact embraced it (it’s hard to tease someone about something if you make more fun of it than they do). That got me through what could have been a very unpleasant year.

    The next year, I went into regular PE, and Andy went on to high school. But we stayed friends (we lived about 1/2 mile apart), and near the end of my 8th grade year, he started inviting me to Mutual and then to church. I was baptized that summer, before entering high school myself. ..bruce..

  18. What a great story #18. Thanks for sharing.

    Jonathan, your humorous approach is inspiring. Maybe we’ll pick my daughter up an eye patch. We’ve just been taping her eye closed at night.

  19. I had BP a few years ago. It’s a frightening thing, but nearly everybody fully recovers. I was back to 100% within about 2 weeks. They suspect mine was caused by a sinus infection. BP is basically a pinched nerve (the facial nerve) caused by swelling in the area, it can be caused by a variety of infections/viruses. Get rid of the infection and swelling, and things should get back to normal soon. Good luck!!

  20. I wish the best for your daughter. If there were really such thing as dementors as in the Harry Potter Series, they would force me to relive Jr High again and again. I have had unpleasant experiences in my life including the deaths of close family members, but they didn’t even com close to the pain I felt in Jr High. The good news is that life only got better after middle school.

    Experiencing pain and embarrassment at this age is pretty much universal. Maybe there are people out there who truly enjoyed Jr High, but I’ve never met anyone who has. Most kids in your daughters school are experiencing a lot of pain and embarrassment for one thing or another. It just isn’t always easy to see.

    I would advise her to hold close to the kind people she encounters. They may not have the same social status as the “popular” crowd, but they are more valuable than gold. In turn, be the sort of friend to others that she would hope to have. Kindness is always attractive.

  21. “Kindness is always attractive.”

    So true. I suspect you are right about the universality of pain and embarrassment, too. I’m probably not as optimistic as Patricia (seeing embarrassment and difference as an “adventure”), but I agree that difference opens up opportunity for ourselves and others–to learn, to grow, to act well where ever we are placed and in whatever circumstances we have.

  22. Re: #24

    Kylie, I said not a word about embarrassment being an adventure. But since you mention it, part of the adventure might lie in getting over, around, through the embarrassment.

    Admittedly, this might be a more Herculean task for some than for others. But it could be interesting to see what lies on the other side of the self-consciousness evident in said embarrassment, whomever’s it may be.

  23. I had Bell’s Palsy as a 13 year old girl myself. It lasted for about 6 weeks and while it was trying for the shy, awkward girl I was, good friends supported me through school and I remember the period fondly. I know that I gained strength and character from what seemed such a large problem at the time. And for nearly 10 years I woke with a smile every morning checking if it had come back :D

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