A mother has told how a bout of severe shingles left her face paralysed – giving her a ‘permanent resting grumpy bitch face’.
Lisa Beardsley, 41, from Scunthorpe, claims damaged nerves mean most of the time she looks ‘like a miserable cow’ – even when she tries to smile.
She had thought nothing of tiny marks on her neck – until two weeks later when her face started to droop.
Fearing she was having a stroke, she called an ambulance and was taken to hospital where she lost the ability to talk, eat, drink and smile over four hours.
Doctors discovered the single mother-of-two had harboured the chicken pox virus, which lay dormant for years until it randomly flared up, leading to the facial paralysis.
She had to consume a liquid diet using a straw, and was unable to blink for six months, forcing her to wear an eye patch.
The good-humoured support worker is slowly recovering, but admits the damaged nerves mean she ‘winks’ when she tries to smile.
Lisa Beardsley, 41, from Scunthorpe, claims damaged nerves mean most of the time she looks ‘like a miserable cow’
She had to consume a liquid diet using a straw, and was unable to blink for six months, forcing her to wear an eye patch (pictured before her facial paralysis)
Ms Beardsley said: ‘Everywhere I go people think I’m moody which is annoying because I was known for being smiley and happy-go-lucky.
‘A man came up to me in a bar recently and said “You’d be the prettiest girl in here if you just smiled”.
‘I had contracted shingles and two weeks later they evolved into this terrible condition.
‘My lips were tingling but when I looked in the mirror three hours later I noticed my face had dropped.’
She added: ‘I looked like Sloth from The Goonies and I thought I had suffered a stroke.
‘It was the day I lost my smile – and from then I had to relearn how to brush my teeth and talk and I can no longer blow out candles.
‘I look like a miserable cow with a permanent resting bitch face even when I’m trying to smile.
‘People need to be aware of how serious shingles is and the importance of getting any marks – however innocuous – checked out because it could lead to this.’
Doctors discovered the single mother-of-two had harboured the chicken pox virus, which lay dormant for years until it randomly flared up, leading to the facial paralysis (pictured before her face dropped after suffering from shingles)
The shingles started with six innocuous marks on the back of her neck in January 2017.
She noticed her lips were tingling – and was horrified when hours later the right side of her face started to ‘droop’.
Rushed to hospital
Ms Beardsley called an ambulance and was taken to Scunthorpe General hospital and placed in a stroke unit for 48 hours.
WHAT IS RAMSAY HUNT SYNDROME? THE RARE COMPLICATION OF SHINGLES THAT LEADS TO FACIAL PARALYSIS
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a complication of shingles, caused by the same virus as chickenpox (VZV), that can lead to facial paralysis.
The virus becomes reactivated after laying dormant for years and causes inflammation and irritation on the facial nerves.
VZV is harmless unless it is reactivated and should this happen new symptoms will appear.
The virus can be reactivated when the immune system is weakened, and less able to fight off infection. Stress is often a trigger.
Figures suggest that five in every 100,000 adults in the US will develop RHS. It poses a similar threat in the UK.
Children are rarely affected by RHS, as the complication most often affects adults in their 60s.
Treatment usually involves antiviral medication. Doctors recommend seeking help within three days of the start of symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
- Facial muscles droop
- Difficulty closing the eye
- Altered taste
- Loss of facial expression
- Difficulty eating, drinking and speaking
She claims doctors initially told her the condition would improve – but the symptoms got worse.
Ms Beardsley says she was misdiagnosed with Bell’s Palsy – another type of facial paralysis – before EMG tests revealed a deteriorating condition.
Nine needles were stuck into her face which doctors sent electrical currents through as part of the tests, which also revealed chronic photophobia meaning the right eye is over-sensitive to light.
She said: ‘I have to put my head down when in the car at night to avoid bright headlights and the flash of cameras.
‘It’s because my eye was open for such a long period and is now extremely sensitive.’
Her regular neurological tests check her smile and progress but are ‘more for observation’ than a remedy for her problem.
Ms Beardsley is also prescribed Tramadol, morphine and anti-seizure medication.
She was unable to close her right eye for six months and has had to relearn how to drink from a glass, brush her teeth and talk.
Doctors told her the facial nerves would recover at a rate of 1mm per day and she was off work sick for eight months.
The right side of her face has recovered ’70 per cent’ – but her right eye closes if she moves her slumped mouth and she says it looks like she is constantly winking at people.
She still experiences ‘constant pain’ in the back of her neck which ‘feels like a knife stabbing through the skin’ and lost three stone while learning to eat again.
Doctors think the dormant chicken pox virus flared up and left her with Ramsay Hunt syndrome – the medical term for damage to facial nerves after contracting shingles.
The good-humoured support worker is slowly recovering, but admits the damaged nerves mean she ‘winks’ when she tries to smile (pictured just days after her face dropped)
Ms Beardsley, who is slowly recovering, said: ‘I look like a miserable cow with a permanent resting bitch face even when I’m trying to smile’
She believes it was caused by stress, brought on by three tragedies in her life in December 2016 – the month before.
Her step-father was diagnosed with a brain tumour, her daughter’s friend was killed in a car accident and her ex-partner’s sister died of brain cancer.
Medics say her nose has partially collapsed which is why her ‘resting face’ resembles a smirk.
Her road to recovery saw her transition from a happy-go-lucky extrovert to a recluse – after she was verbally abused and stared at in the street.
Cruel remarks in the street
She heard somebody shout ‘wang eye’ at her and remarks such as ‘Look at her she’s got one eye’.
This initially left her terrified to leave her home – but the help of daughter Megan, 17, and son Connor, 16, has kept her going.
Ms Beardsley, who last had chicken pox as a 13-year-old, said: ‘My attitude towards life has changed because I’m now disabled so I view the world differently.
‘I took things for granted before the shingles and was often complimented for having a nice face.
‘But then I was left unable to open and close my right eye for six months – meaning it was open when I slept and have to wear an eyepatch.
She believes it was caused by stress, brought on by three tragedies in her life in December 2016 – the month before (pictured using a muscle tense machine to stimulate her facial nerves when she was diagnosed)
She added: ‘My children kept me alive – they’re the most amazing children in the world’
‘My confidence has been completely shattered – I was outgoing and bubbly but now I hide my face and have my head down rather than up.
‘I avoid situations where I have to meet people now because I have to explain it all again.’
Praising her children
She added: ‘My children kept me alive – they’re the most amazing children in the world.
‘They would dress me, make food, my daughter would make pack ups for my son and they would sleep next to me in bed to make sure I was OK.
‘They never once looked at me any differently.’
She can now close her right eye but has to remember to blink when it gets dry because she can’t feel it.
Ms Beardsley, who takes a strong cocktail of painkillers, including morphine, to cope with intense ‘stabbing pain’, added: ‘The neurologist and physio said my face would recover by 10 per cent but it’s at 70 per cent.
‘I am starting to feel positive again and am looking to the future.
‘I have learnt so much about myself and am fortunate to have a very good support group that kept me focused and strong.
‘I think strong will has taken me a long way.’