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Patient Story


March 5, 2024

Helen had been a school catering manager for over 20 years, confident and meticulous in her work. She lived with her husband, Greg, and their two dogs, leading busy lives filled with work and social activities. They enjoyed music concerts, meeting friends, and dining out, relishing in the hustle and bustle of life.

One Monday morning, everything changed. While brushing her teeth, Helen noticed something peculiar about her mouth. Initially putting it down to a lingering effect of wine from a family gathering the night before, she brushed it off. However, when Greg noticed her slurred speech and urged her to go to the hospital, anxiety set in.

At the hospital, after a series of tests, Helen received the diagnosis: Bell’s Palsy, a type of facial paralysis that results in temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. Bell’s Palsy is one of the most common types of facial palsy and is characterised by sudden onset weakness or paralysis of the facial muscles due to inflammation or compression of the facial nerve. The exact cause of Bell’s Palsy is not fully understood, but it is believed to occur when the facial nerve becomes inflamed, possibly due to a viral infection.

The right side of Helen’s face was paralysed, leaving her unable to blink with her right eye and causing tingling sensations and numbness in her mouth. She was prescribed steroids and advised that recovery could take up to three months. While Bell’s Palsy typically resolves on its own within six months for most individuals, some may experience lingering effects such as residual weakness or paralysis of facial muscles, synkinesis (involuntary movement of muscles), and changes in facial appearance or function.

The following days were a blur of confusion and frustration as Helen grappled with the reality of her condition. She sought guidance from her GP and specialists, but found little solace as even they were unfamiliar with Bell’s Palsy and its implications for facial palsy. Depression set in as she struggled with her altered appearance and the loss of confidence and self-esteem.

With her daughter’s wedding looming just three months away, Helen’s desperation grew. She felt like a shadow of her former self, avoiding social gatherings and resigning from her beloved job to escape the stares and judgment of others.

It wasn’t until ten months after her diagnosis, in September 2020, that Helen found Hobbs Rehabilitation. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she began facial palsy rehabilitation sessions with Chrissy Bibby, primarily through video calls via Hobbs Rehabilitation Winchester. With a focus on facial massage, stretches, and neuromuscular retraining, Chrissy helped Helen regain some control over her facial movements and manage the synkinesis that had developed. Helen’s synkinesis was initially very noticeable around her eye when she pursed her lips and when she smiled – an ocular-oris synkinetic connection. Despite this challenge, over the course of therapy, she learned techniques to stretch out the tightened muscles and mastered movements to reduce the effect of synkinesis.

Helen’s journey towards improvement was slow but steady. She began to notice subtle changes: a slight movement of her eyebrow without the rest of her face responding involuntarily, and progress in the targeted exercises for the corner of her mouth. While Chrissy’s expertise was invaluable in guiding Helen through the challenges of her condition, it was her unwavering encouragement and understanding that truly made a profound difference in Helen’s mental health. Chrissy’s compassionate approach and belief in Helen’s progress not only lifted her spirits but also instilled a newfound sense of determination. With each session, Helen felt empowered to push through setbacks and embrace the gradual improvements she was making. Chrissy’s support had a ripple effect on Helen’s overall well-being, fostering a positive mindset that fuelled her motivation to overcome the obstacles posed by facial palsy. As Helen’s mental health improved, she noticed a corresponding boost in her physical progress, highlighting the interconnected nature of mind and body in the journey toward recovery.

Thanks to Chrissy’s guidance and the tools she provided, Helen’s outlook began to change. While she knew she would never be the same as before, she realised that the new version of herself wasn’t as daunting as she had initially feared. Finding solace in the gradual improvements, Helen regained some semblance of normalcy in her life. Grateful for the support she received from Hobbs Rehabilitation, Helen looked toward the future with renewed hope and determination, knowing that with Chrissy’s help, she could continue to manage her condition.

Through her journey, Helen recognised the importance of raising awareness about facial palsy. Increased awareness can lead to earlier recognition and diagnosis of the condition, enabling individuals to access appropriate medical care and treatment sooner. By educating healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the general public about facial palsy, we can promote the development of more effective treatments, support services, and resources tailored to the needs of those affected. Ultimately, raising awareness is essential for empowering individuals with facial palsy to advocate for themselves, access the care they deserve, and live fulfilling lives free from discrimination and barriers. Hobbs Rehabilitation continues to provide ongoing support and guidance for Facial Palsy rehabilitation, helping individuals like Helen navigate the challenges of their condition and achieve their goals.

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