The KSAT 6 p.m. newscast has been missing a familiar face for the last several weeks. Over the weekend, Myra Arthur explained her absence in a post on social media, saying she has Bell's palsy.
"The left side of my face is temporarily paralyzed. I can’t smile fully. I can’t close my left eye or blink so I have to tape it shut to protect it. Words with P’s and F’s sound a little funky when I say them. This is why I haven’t been on the air for a while," Arthur said in the post.
Many people have commented on Arthur's posts, some offering support and others sharing their own stories of dealing with the condition.
"I miss her professionally and personally. We are staying in touch through texts, and I know her resilient spirit and fight will get her through this and back with us. She has certainly not lost her sense of humor in all this, I can tell you that!!"
-Steve Spriester , KSAT Anchor
Bell's palsy causes sudden, temporary paralysis on one side of your face. It's believed to be the result of a viral infection that causes swelling of the nerve that controls facial muscles. Some people recover in a matter of days while for others, it could take weeks, months or longer.
"Myra is a friend – and above all, she’s family. It’s no surprise viewers have embraced her as she talks so candidly about Bell’s Palsy and the effect it’s having on her health. And while we can’t wait for her to get back into the newsroom, and on the air where our viewers look for her to bring our stories to life, we want her to take care of herself first, and foremost. The KSAT 12 family is tight, and we are pulling for Myra’s quick recovery."
- Bernice Kearney, KSAT 12 News Director
Arthur is used to telling other people's stories -- it's something she's good at. She's not as practiced at telling her own, but she feels like sharing her journey could help others in theirs.
The following is a note from Arthur, answering some of the questions she's been asked most frequently: What were the first symptoms? How was she diagnosed? What causes Bell's palsy? What's her prognosis?
My symptoms started with swelling in my left ear. I could barely touch my ear without wincing. I thought I had somehow come down with an ear infection after having the flu and pneumonia in early September, but my family doctor told me that was unlikely. Later that same day after seeing him, my left eye began to tear up often. Finally, around 9:30pm that night- right before going on the air at 10:00- I noticed I couldn't smile like I normally do. It was like my smile was stunted. I called my aunt, who is nurse, and told her my symptoms. She immediately said "Bell's Palsy." I was sufficiently freaked out. (Thanks, internet.)
Fortunately, I got an appointment the next morning with a neurotologist's office (think inner ear doctor). They confirmed it was Bell's Palsy. By this point, I couldn't close my left eye at all. Couldn't blink. Couldn't move a muscle on the left side of my face. I told the PA that I had the flu and pneumonia weeks ago. He asked if I had ever had the chicken pox.
That's when he told me my BP was likely caused by a virus similar to shingles that may have been inside my body since I had chicken pox as a kid. He believes it took hold thanks to that flu/pneumonia combo that left my immune system battered and bruised.
I've learned that BP is caused by inflammation in the ear that presses on the 7th cranial nerve, rendering one side of your face temporarily paralyzed.
I was prescribed a high dosage of steroids and an anti-viral and told recovery could be anywhere from a few weeks to six months. How convenient.
But the good news is most people recover.
People do recover. I keep repeating that.
The biggest challenge has been my eye. Because I can't blink, my cornea is incredibly "angry," as my opthamologist likes to say. Blinking is important, apparently.
I have to put what I affectionately refer to as "goop" in my eye several times a day and tape it shut to keep my eye lubricated. Gauze pads, adhesive eye patches and paper tape are my new ride or dies.
Some days, I get these awful waves of pain in my left eye. It's enough to make my right eye tear up and force me to close both of them. That's when I have to take a page out of my grandfather's playbook and literally 'rest my eyes.'
When you Google BP, you mostly see images of lopsided faces. But I've also come to learn that symptoms include extreme sensitivity to sound on the affected side. My son's cries are ear piercing in my left ear.
Loss of taste is another symptom. For the first two or three days, I couldn't taste anything on the left side of my tongue.
I'm also sensitive to bright lights right now. Watching TV in the dark before bed is a no-go for me. Cloudy or not, I can't be outside without sunglasses and driving is iffy.
(NOTE: When this is all over and I have a face for trying on shades, I AM INVESTING IN GOOD SUNGLASSES. My assortment of gas station/pharmacy/Target cheapos aren't cutting it.)
I have had Bell's Palsy for 18 days now. I have been amazed at the number of people who have reached out to me saying they had this or know someone who has had it. On average, most people have said it took them or their loved ones about a month to recover.
People do recover.
I've had an MRI to rule out any more serious causes, and thankfully, everything came back clean. Having BP has certainly been a shock to my system. A challenge both physically and mentally. But I'm learning a lot in the process. About my body, my health, my patience (or lack thereof), my strength, and the tremendous support system I am blessed to have.
The swelling in my ear has gone away. I can taste normally now. I can lift the left corner of my mouth and ever-so-slightly move my left eyebrow.
There are other things I'm doing to help myself along. I'll get there.
Because people do recover.
See you on TV soon!