When Stevie and I were in Paris a few days ago, we were talking about “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, the novel by Oscar Wilde. It was the usual line of chat about how there must be a portrait of us all somewhere, a picture reflecting the colour of our soul, a picture reflecting the mounting hurts and calamaties of our lives thus far.
I caught my reflection in the mirror this morning and I saw a little bit of my ‘Dorian Gray’.
We had a great show in Paris, a lovely time. I knew I probably had a crash coming, I could feel it in deep background. I took my foot off the gas on the Saturday, had this one simple walk along a beautiful street in the 3rd arrondissment, in an area called Le Marais.
By the time I got back to the hotel I had a good going cold coming on. I staggered through the next couple of days, but I was feeling real lousy, drugged up to talk to the press. Thank God Stevie was there to keep the chat going. I told the team I wasn’t going to go on to Copenhagen, I needed to go home.
It’s so rare that I ever cancel on band obligations. With my history of post viral stuff, I make it a point of honour to know what my limits are and therefore I don’t agree to do anything that will be outside my bounds. I hate to muck people around, especially the band, because we are such a large group. But it was just me going, I thought I could happily go back to Denmark another time.
I woke on the Wednesday, happy to be heading home. I noticed at breakfast that my tongue had a coat on it. I couldn’t really taste my breakfast. Maybe I burnt it on something? I didn’t think about it. I rested in the morning. By the time it came to move, I felt pretty out of it, but this is how I usually feel with a heavy cold, when I’ve finally let go of work and commitments.
I didn’t see anyone I know, got driven to the airport. Couldn’t taste the salad I had for lunch at all. Thought it was the worst thing I ever ate. Got on plane. Got back home. Surprised the kid as he watched ‘in the night garden’ on CBBC. He sat on my knee for a while still watching, but I know he was just quietly and happily getting used to me being back.
So we put him to bed, and we were talking in the kitchen, and it was then Marisa said
“What’s going on with your face?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your mouth’s all funny when you talk, and you’re slurring.”
“Come on, I’m just tired.”
“Look in the mirror.”
I looked in the mirror. At first I didn’t see much, I just looked tired. Not surprising I hadn’t looked in a mirror all day.
I tried a smile. Only one side of my mouth went up. I looked more than a little Braquish.
“One two one two…”
Forgive me if I lacked inspiration to come up with something more poetic at that point.
“Your mouth is all over the place! Are you kidding me on?”
“I’m not doing anything! I told you my tongue was numb all day, maybe it’s the same thing.”
She rushed away, got her phone.
“What are you doing?”
“I think you’re having a stroke.”
“I’m not having a stroke.”
She looked up ‘stroke’ and some of the signs matched. So we phoned NHS 24. I spoke to the woman, who took a long time finding someone I could talk to. I thought, if you were having a stroke, that things maybe should go a little faster.
The lady in the know asked me many questions. She asked me
“Any other medical conditions.”
“I history of post viral fatigue, but I know you guys don’t usually count that shit.”
I was a little testy.
It’s like, I always tell them that, the old ME thing. But it’s the only health thing that counts in my daily life, and it rules my life. But to them, it’s like I told them I see dead people.
So they sent me to A&E. Our neighbours came in to watch the kid, we went off in a cab.
Long story short, we were in there all night. I finally was admitted to a ward for observation. Marisa went home. Doctors and nurses came and went. A nice lady from Malaysia did a bunch of tests with me, and she felt pretty sure I hadn’t had a stroke.
Finally, the doctor on the ward saw me at 3.30am, and we had a chat. It was clear that the muscles on the right side of my face had stopped working properly, I had a facial palsy. This can be brought on by a simple cold virus, which I had no idea about before. There’s a nerve from the brain to the facial muscles that can get squeezed if there is inflammation in the right point.
The ward was pretty noisy. He said I could go home if I wanted, I’d probably sleep better.
So here I am, face palsied all over the place. Marisa says you can’t tell too much as long as I don’t laugh, smile, speak, sing, wink, close my eyes, or try to eat soup. So that’s ok.
Still a wee bit worried about the stroke thing. They might have done a scan in the morning to make sure 100%, but I trust them. It feels ok.
My ME friend Ciara and I have a saying- it’s just another threshold. My attitude to ME/post viral fatigue was always pretty positive I thought. Since 1989, it has caused me to live life determinedly to the best in whatever direction I was fit to move in. Inevitably though you come up against a threshold. Only in the past few years have I actually admitted that this whole business is here for the long run, that my immune system seems to be the weak point.
My great sword for the fight is Traditional Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture with attendant potions and herbs. It’s expensive, and a bit uncomfortable, but it’s never let me down. I have a really great Doctor. The NHS people said my face might be better in six months or so.. maybe. I walk in to my Chinese doc. He says
“No problem, your face. Six weeks.”
Thing is, he’s not just looking at the face. He sees me, sees the whole picture.
“Too much stress. Work too hard. You have weak immune. Wind attacks you.”
The wind attacked me. Always hated the wind.