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23: Am I Having a Stroke? Nope, It's Just Bell's Palsy

Oct 29, 2019

Poor producer Mitch suddenly can’t move half his face, but it’s NOT a stroke. Find out about Bell’s Palsy and how it can happen to anyone. Also, learn how Bradley Cooper got shredded for American Sniper. Are seizures an emergency? And is your dog left-handed?

Episode Transcript

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

Mitch's Stroke Scare

Recently, Who Cares producer Mitch Sears went to the ER with what he believed were stroke like symptoms. It started in the morning with a mild twitch in his left eye that he assumed was caused by eye strain. That afternoon while eating lunch, a spoonful of soup suddenly slipped out of the side of his mouth. He ran into the bathroom to see what was the matter and was shocked to see the left side of his face had begun to droop down. In the course of just a few minutes, Mitch had an unresponsive face and difficulty speaking.

With panic setting in, was Mitch having a stroke?

What is a Stroke?

Before getting any further into Mitch's story, the symptoms of stroke are:

  • Facial weakness/drooping
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Problems with coordination
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Muscular weakness on one side of the body

If you or a loved one are having any of these symptoms, seek treatment immediately. Time is of the essence for treating a stroke. Clot-busting medications and clot removal surgeries are available to minimize or reduce the effects of a stroke, but they are time sensitive. A stroke victim typically only has a window of three to four hours to receive treatment. So seek treatment immediately.

The Brain Attack Protocol

After arriving at the emergency room, Mitch was brought back to be seen immediately. Doctors began running tests on his ability to speak and think as well as his strength and sensitivity. The physicians were concerned enough to start the "Brain Attack Protocol."

A brain attack is a lot less scary than it sounds. At University of Utah Health, "brain attack" is what they call a stroke. If a doctor suspects a patient may be having a stroke, a neurologist is brought in immediately to help diagnose the patient.

The "brain attack protocol" helps doctors and patients receive faster care and jump the lines for CT and MRI imaging. It helps make sure that stroke patients are identified and treated immediately rather than waste time in the waiting room. Remember, the window for treatment of a stroke is three to four hours, so it's important to get diagnosed and treated ASAP.

After starting the brain attack protocol Mitch was taken immediately to imaging. After a quick CT scan and spending an hour in an MRI listening to Marilyn Manson, he had his diagnosis.

It wasn't a stroke. It was Bell's Palsy.

So What's Bell's Palsy?

Bell's Palsy occurs when the nerve running from your spinal column to one side of your face becomes inflamed. The inflammation can occur after an injury or - in most cases - a viral infection. There are many viruses that can cause Bell's palsy, including cold-sore causing herpes, dormant chicken pox, or even influenza.

This increased pressure on the nerve causes muscle paralysis on one side of a person's face. This facial drooping can sometimes be confused with the symptoms of a stroke, but the condition, while irritating, is not life threatening and often temporary.

Treatment of Bell's Palsy typically includes an anti-inflammatory medication and a round of antiviral drugs. Unfortunately for patients, even with medications, recovery can take anywhere from 10 days to 6 months depending on severity. After a round of medications, patients just have to wait to regain control of their face.

"Bell's Palsy just happens," says Troy, "and I don't think anyone knows why." The condition can affect anyone of any age and there are no known increased risk factors.

The Stress of Not Functioning

"At least it wasn't a stroke," jokes Mitch. It's been a week since his incident, but he's still not able to move his face completely. While Bell's Palsy isn't as life-threatening as a stroke, a loss of functionality can be stressful on anyone.

Mitch found his quality of life to immediately change. "Suddenly not being able to speak correctly. Suddenly not being able to eat very easily. There were a lot of things that were killing me," he says, "I loved my smile."

The disruption to his life has been difficult. Symptoms kept getting worse throughout the first week. He was unable to blink so he had to use eye drops and tape his eye closed every night. He explains that there's a lot of stress that comes with waking up every morning knowing that all you can do is wait for the symptoms to subside.

"I know it's nothing super serious to my health, but it's a big deal."

Luckily, as of today, Mitch is beginning to see vast improvements very quickly. He blinked for the first time since the incident. It's small, but a good sign he's on the road to recovery.

How One Trainer Helps Celebs Get Movie Ready

Scot recently found an article about a personal trainer's approach to fitness he just had to share. Jason Walsh is personal trainer to the stars. He's worked with celebrities like Matt Damon and Jennifer Aniston. He's the trainer that helped Bradley Cooper gain 40 pounds of muscle in 3 months for his role in American Sniper and helped Emily Blunt get strong enough to carry around a 70 pound exoskeleton in Edge of Tomorrow. He seems to know what he's doing to help people get fit.

Scot was struck by the sensible approach Walsh brings to fitness. Rather than putting a person on a high protein diet with a high intensity workout routine, Walsh focuses on a more holistic strategy to getting his clients in shape. He also works to help his clients improve their overall nutrition, sleep, and mental health.

Before beginning any workout routine, Jason Walsh first works to get his clients a "clean bill of movement." This means that he works with the actors to get all of their nagging physical issues under control. Whether it be a weak knee, a problematic back, a bad shoulder, Walsh works with physical therapists to get a person's body moving correctly. Those issues need to be fixed before anyone can get on track to get the body they want.

Sounds a lot like this podcast's Core Four strategy.

For more information on Jason Walsh and his fitness strategy click here.

How a Celebrity Trainer Got Matt Damon, Jennifer Aniston & More in Shape

How a Celebrity Trainer Gets Actors in Shape for Movies

ER or Not: Seizure

Seizures can be scary. A person suddenly begins shaking and convulsing. It sounds serious. But is it serious enough to go to the ER?

According to Dr. Madsen, if the person has never had a seizure before, it's an emergency. Call 911 and get to the ER immediately. Doctor's need to see what's causing the seizure and make sure it isn't anything life threatening. Some seizures can be caused by brain bleeds and tumors, so it's important to get a scan done quickly to diagnose and treat these serious conditions.

Alternatively, there are many people who have a seizure disorder. These conditions can cause a person to regularly have seizure episodes. Sometimes these seizures occur daily. Doctors will treat these conditions with anti-seizure medication, but sometimes episodes still occur. For patients like these, there is no reason to take them to the emergency room unless there are any new symptoms.

Just Going to Leave This Here

On this episode's Just Going to Leave This Here, Troy learns all about the differences between left and right handed people - and animals; and Scot can't resist those sweet treats sitting in the break room.

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