Friday, October 7, 2016


In 1996, Sherri, a woman in her twenties, came into work one morning and I noticed that one side of her mouth was drooping; I asked her if she were OK and she said that she had awakened feeling strange. I asked her if she had looked in the mirror. I escorted her to the Medical Department and the nurse Althea immediately called to have her taken to the hospital believing that Sherri might have experienced a stroke.

I said, "I'll bet she has Bell's Palsy." Althea asked where I had gotten my medical degree and that I shouldn't say things like that in front of an employee. Of course she was right about that, but I thought she was very young for a stroke. After Sherri was taken to the hospital, I told Althea that my sister-in-law had had Bell's Palsy for awhile and that's how she looked and it had lasted several weeks. When Sherri returned, we learned that the doctor had indeed diagnosed Bell's Palsy.  Fortunately, Sherri's case lasted only three days. You can imagine that I had a lot of razzing about "diagnostic questions" after that.
The nerve that  is injured with Bell's Palsy originates in an area of the brain stem known as the Pons.

I knew that Bell's Palsy can afflict one for hours, days, months, or years. My friend Lee Ann and I began working together in 1979.  She had been diagnosed with Bell's Palsy when she was a young housewife and mother. It had affected one entire side of her face. Her husband was a teacher and coach and they had two children. He died quite young and Lee Ann had two young children to rear all alone. She knew that she must find employment but she had never worked outside the home, having married right after high school. She knew that her opportunities for employment were limited because of the Bell's Palsy.

 A man for whom she had been a babysitter, when Lee Ann was a teenager, and had also been one of her husband's students and athletes had gone into management at International Hatvester.  When he came to pay his respects at the funeral, he of course said the obligatory, "If there's anything I can do....".    Several weeks after the funeral, the Bell's Palsy disappeared. In the weeks following, as she was trying to find employment, the school had decided to name the athletic field in memory of her husband. She and the children went for the dedication. The man for whom she had been a babysitter was there and he came over and said that he could help her get a job.

She was hired in an entry-level position but with her determination she went on to become a Supervisor and her General Foreman was, yes, the man for whom she'd been a babysitter.

Lee Ann supervised the section on first shift which I ran on second shift. When the second was curtailed she and I worked together on first shift and we became friends and allies.  She had a very winning personality and was greatly respected by workers and management alike. After being a widow for more than twenty years, she married a fellow supervisor and helped to rear his son.

Lee Ann's hairstyle was always one with bangs covering one side of her forehead. I had noticed that Lee Ann had age lines on one side of her face but none on the other. Over one summer shutdown I had gone from a shoulder-length hairstyle to a short pixie-cut. At lunch one day Lee Ann complimented my new style and said she wished she could change her hair style. I asked why she didn't and she said that the bangs covered her wrinkles. I told her she didn't have any wrinkles. She lifted her bangs and showed me that on the side of her forehead not affected by the Bell's Palsy was WRINKLED, but the other side was SMOOTH!  She then told me that the "benefit" of Bell's Palsy was that that side of her face hadn't moved in the years she was afflicted and was UNWRINKLED! She said it looked very bizarre when she exposed her forehead with half of it wrinkled and the other half unwrinkled so she'd kept it covered.

When I first heard of Botox, I thought about Lee Ann. I called her and we went to lunch and she laughed and said the one side had ALMOST caught up with the other as far as wrinkles were concerned.  She had kept her same hairstyle, but now with gray hair.  She laughed and said, "I'm too old to change now!"

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