Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Treating my Bell's Palsy

I have Bell's Palsy. The left half of my face is paralyzed. It is why one of my eyes is wide open and only one side of my mouth moves when I talk or smile. I am getting the feel of what it is like to be disfigured or handicapped. People have been looking at me with alarm, revulsion and concern.
Despite it's peculiarness, it is a relatively benign condition. According to the to Medline Plus and Mayo Clinic websites, it starts to get better in a couple of weeks and is pretty much gone in 3 to 6 months. There's not much that doctors do to treat the disease--possibly prescribing anti-viral medications or steroids. I've treated mine by reading about it on the Internet.
This doesn't sit well with some people. My brother--who first tipped me off that I might have Bell's said, "Do you want to go to the Emergency Room? It's right across the street." My co-worker, Norma, said, "Maybe you should go to the clinic." One patron asked "What doctor did you go to?" Others have expressed incredulousness that I haven't "gone to the doctor."
I'm not sure why I have avoided medical care. I don't have health insurance, but I don't think that's the only reason. As my husband says, "We can afford it if you want to go to the doctor." At my stage of life, I have grown leary of the authority of doctors. I have been to them enough to know that they are human and fallible. I trust my own knowledge and I know that doctors do not have any magical powers. I trust mostly in the human body to heal itself.
Americans may have to come to grips with this as they go about reforming their health care system. Too often we believe that more is always better and that doctors must do something. It is the great faith and value that we place on doctors and their tools--surgery, drugs, physical therapy--that have spent us into these excesses. Being "under a doctor's care" has such status to us that those of us who opt out of this system are shamed and pitied. The uninsured are even blamed for the high costs of health care. I just wish that the stakes weren't so high with health care. I wish I could go into a clinic and not wait for hours and spend hundreds of dollars on treatments and tests. Although I know modern medicine has something to offer, I also know that our ancestors lived long and healthy lives without it. For now I'm treating my Bell's with rest and aspirin.