Just 30 seconds into my online Teladoc appointment, the doctor looked at me and said, "You need to go to the closest hospital emergency room, you may be having a stroke."

So, Day 4 of my Staycation was not going as I hoped.

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Thursday morning I woke up, started on my regular morning routine and brushed my teeth. As I was finishing, I leaned over to sink to spit and.... I couldn't. My mouth wasn't working like I wanted it to. Instead of a spit, it was kind of a drool.

That was weird. I tried to form my lips to spit, and it felt odd. I tried to pucker and whistle - nothing. I looked in the mirror and the right part of my bottom lip didn't work.

"Oh crap", I thought. I should have called the endodontist. A few weeks back my dentist had reminded me of a very small infection in the tooth that I had a root canal in several years ago. She said I need to get it taken care of before it spread. I assumed this was the infection now spreading.

I had planned to get blood work done for my routine physical, so I went, did that and returned home. I called the endodontist's office and explained my symptoms, but they couldn't fit me in yet.

As the day went on, and morning turned into afternoon, I noticed my face feeling more and more sore. My right eye started turning red and watering often.

I grew more concerned and considered going to Urgent Care. Then I remembered that through my health insurance I could do a Teladoc call. (Basically I downloaded an APP, imputed my basic health information, and, at least this time, I was quickly connected via video to a physician in New Jersey.)

I went over my symptoms, she looked at me, had me do some smiling and blinking and said, "You need to go to the closest hospital emergency room, you may be having a stroke. This could be a couple things, but you need to go there just in case it is a stroke."

After that, I kissed my wife goodbye and jumped in the car. (In this Covid world, we weren't sure if anyone could even get into the hospital's emergency room with me.)

I arrived at the Emergency Room at AtlantiCare Hospital, Mainland in Pomona. I have to be honest here - when you walk in the ER with possible stoke symptoms, you get seen IMMEDIATELY!

After hearing my symptoms, people were already moving towards me. The woman at registration took some very basic information from me, and within a minute, a bracelet was put on my wrist and I was led to a chair for a quick assessment of my symptoms.

(I have to say here, I really felt bad for the 20 or so people sitting and waiting in the emergency room. Here I walked in and was swept passed them all. I did hear someone complain to one of the nurses, but she quickly said, "He's a possible stroke patient, we have to take him right away.)

A nurse quickly gave me some facial and body motor tests to determine what was happening. I didn't get her name, but she was friendly and thorough. Another nurse came and ran through the same kinds of tests, and they quickly determined that it didn't appear that I was in any immediate danger. They first suggested that what I was going through was something called "Bell's Palsy."

I admit, at the time, I had no idea what Bell's Palsy was - and the only time I ever heard about it was on an episode of Seinfeld:

Next, another nurse and a couple doctors met with me and went over my symptoms and motor skills once again.

The original diagnosis was confirmed - I have Bell's Palsy. It has caused about half of my face to droop, including part of my mouth and eyelid. Discharge from my eye was happening because my eyelid doesn't close all the way. The Mayo Clinic has more details on what Bell's Palsy is here.

I should say here, it's not related to COVID-19 in any way, shape or form.

In most cases, it will go away with medication in anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months or more.

In the meantime, I'm walking around with my face looking a little "off." (*Benefit of mask wearing - you can't see it!)

I can talk normally. Eating in the first 24 hours has been a little tricky.  Chewing on the  right side of my mouth feels odd. The eye is still red and watery. The biggest adjustment so far has been having to tape my eye shut while I sleep: it allows the body's natural watering system to work, and I won't scratch my eyeball when I move while sleeping.

Other than that, I'm pretty comfortable. I'm taking it easy for a couple days, and should be ready to get back to my regular routine in a day or two.

I want to mention that the staff at AtlantiCare Mainland was GREAT. Everyone I encountered was nice, friendly, and professional. They quickly put me at ease and I always knew what was happening. Yes, there were a lot of COVID questions and precautions. Mask and face shields were worn by everyone, all the time.

What I learned: Thankfully I did not have a stroke. A stroke is nothing to mess around with. People who have strokes die. If you're experiencing ANY stroke symptoms, get to the emergency room immediately. Time is critical. Part of the way they determined that I didn't have a stroke is that my symptoms began 12 hours ago, and if I had a stroke, I probably still wouldn't be walking into the hospital.

If you feel numb - especially on half of your face, seek help immediately! Don't ask people on Facebook what they think - GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM or call 911!

Now, I need to point out here that I have no formal medical training. I'm not sure that all the information I relayed in the article is technically correct, so don't do anything "because Joe Kelly said so."

Here are the warning signs of a stroke from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Trouble speaking and understanding what others are saying. You may experience confusion, slur your words or have difficulty understanding speech.

  • Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg. You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg. This often affects just one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Also, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.

  • Problems seeing in one or both eyes. You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.

  • Headache. A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate that you're having a stroke.

  • Trouble walking. You may stumble or lose your balance. You may also have sudden dizziness or a loss of coordination.

Here's what to do if you or someone has these symptoms:

Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to come and go or they disappear completely. Think "FAST" and do the following:

  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise?
  • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 or emergency medical help immediately.

Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Don't wait to see if symptoms stop. Every minute counts. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability.

If you're with someone you suspect is having a stroke, watch the person carefully while waiting for emergency assistance.

Thanks for taking the time to read, it means a lot to me. If I can help one person in the future, this article is worth it.


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