Last Wednesday was set to be an ordinary day really, except for the strange metallic taste in my mouth from when I woke up. I had my coffee, some breakfast and it was still there. It even trumped the super-strength toothpaste I used to brush my teeth. Last time I eat a salad late in the evening, I thought. Euugh, could it be that spring onion….
The day just slid from there, the metallic taste, to the sore eye, to the tingly feeling on the right side of my face, to the extreme discomfort talking to parents at my son’s handball practice later. My mouth felt like it couldn’t manage a smile any more, especially on one side. In the mirror, my face was that nice grey white that you have after you do a white wash with a navy blue t-shirt imposter. By the time my husband came home, I thought I was having a stroke. He had worked in a neurological rehab centre in Switzerland many years ago and went into some mad never-before-seen overdrive mode, firing questions and asking me to smile, frown, blink. I couldn’t credibly do any of them.
After finding care for the kids, the two of us made it to the legevakt or Accident & Emergency in Oslo city center within an hour. They assessed the situation and then sent us across town to the hospital where I stayed for a few days. Turns out, it all comes back to an infected tick that bit me weeks ago on the arm and left a gift of a rotten infection that will take some months to clear.
It was my first real encounter with the Norwegian healthcare system and it was very impressive. From the moment I registered at legevakt with what seemed to be a rapidly deteriorating condition, I was moved through the care system with efficiency and decisiveness. I arrived in a neurology ward at 3 in the morning and they were very apologetic that the inn was full so I’d have to sleep outside on the corridor for the night as they had had a busy day. They could have parked me on the moon at that stage and I wouldn’t have minded as long as they were going to get to the bottom of what was wrong with me.
It was a rough few days after that. The life-lines, aka wrinkles, on my forehead disappeared but only on one side as my face was frozen, I will never complain about wrinkles again. I had an MRI scan for the first time in my life. The valium or whatever sort of ‘calmer’ that helped me have an MRI was amazing, I was as chilled as could be. The MRI noises even sounded like a percussion band, good beat and rhythm as it squealed into different positions, only becoming terrifying when the quiet set in.
Then there was the first visit from my kids, both understandably traumatised by my sudden disappearance and then looking horrified when they saw my hospital gown, eye-patch and lop-sided face. One screamed in fear and ran away, the other immediately grabbed my hand and tried to smile in a sideways grin so her face could look as wonky as mine. And then there was the lovely Norwegian doctor who had trained in Dublin, which meant that we could comfortably switch from Norwegian to English for a while and even have some banter about Irish humour, chattiness, and our general abhorrence of silence. That was light relief that I badly needed.
And as for that great Microsoft laptop I have that uses facial recognition software to sign-me in… well, it turns out that’s like a blow falling on a bruise when you have a type of Bell’s Palsy and it sort of rubs it in every time saying, who are you, we don’t know you, go find Carmel, it’s her laptop. I can of course turn this off but I won’t. In time, my face will recover so this will be my own test on literally finding my straight face. When the computer says yes, I’ll know normality is restored. A bit weird perhaps, I know, but one must have aspirations they say.
Right now, I’m home in the loving care of family and strong medication. I’m taking each day as it comes and warned by chatty doctor not to expect miracles. He also advised that Netflix would be good for my health right now and I’m taking that seriously.
And as for that spring onion and whatever part it didn’t play in the early stages, the association was enough and I’m afraid it’s dead to me now.