So they wheeled me into the MRI machine once more for the contrast MRI. The contrast MRI is done using a chemical called Gadolinium which accumulates in abnormal tissue in the body or head and therefore makes them appear brighter. This is one way to identify tumors through MRI. The second MRI took only about 7 – 10 minutes to do but it seemed like a lifetime. I remember thinking to myself that I hadn’t davened that morning and so I said the Shmoneh Esrei t’fillah in the MRI and repeated to myself Tehillim 23. I remember thinking to myself that if this was G-d’s will then I would accept it and I would do everything I could to meet the test he was asking of me. Before I knew it I was out of the MRI machine and being wheeled back to the emergency room exam room.
The wait for the results of the contrast MRI was excruciatingly long. It wasn’t until 1:30 p.m. before I was seen by another doctor. This one was amazing. Dr. Andrew Barbash is the head of Holy Cross’ stroke team and a wonderful doctor. He immediately put me at ease with his humor and his easy demeanor. After examining me for about 10 minutes in the ER hall (I had to move out of the exam room to make way for another patient and ended up spending about 40 minutes next to the nurses desk) he was able to get a hold of the neuroradiologist. After considerable review the neuroradiologist determined that the unusual “blockage” of the lateral left ventricular space in my brain was a congenital condition (i.e. I was born with it) and did not represent a problem.
Once that was out of the way Dr. Barbash examined me some more (all the while noting to his assistant/student the key feartures of the facial paralysis) and finally said that he thought that what I had was Bell’s Palsy but that it was one of the most unusual cases he’s seen. I was showing signs of recovery within a period of hours whereas recovery with most Bell’s Palsy patients occurs on the order of weeks. In addition, he said, my symptoms were so mild that they almost defied diagnosis. Anyway, we moved over to the triage area where I could sit on a chair and he finally decided to put some sugar on my tongue — on the right and the left sides. He asked me which side I could taste the sugar on and I told him that I could taste it more on the left side than on the right side. That, apparently, was the litmus test for Bell’s Palsy. Taste occurs in the tongue and is transmitted up to the brain via the facial nerve. Since I could taste on the left side and not my right it was a definite indicator that I had Bell’s Palsy. He then suggested that given the mild nature of the paralysis that I not bother with taking any medication for the condition and let it resolve itself. He gave me his business card with his website on it as well as his business information on it and told me to go home, but to contact him if anything happened that may indicate something else is going on. I have to say that this was one of the most scary days of my life…thinking at first that I had a stroke and then thinking I possibly had a tumor and finally finding out that I had a paralysis that will resolve itself. It was a very tiring day. I tried to catch up on my rest on Shabbat — but with three kids — yeah, that’s going to happen.
Funny thing though. When I left the hospital I was given a CD with the MRI images of my brain. I showed them to my kids and they got a kick out of it. Kind of like : “Hey kids…here’s daddy’s brain…here’s daddy’s brain NOT on drugs.” 🙂