GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Roughly 40 to 50 thousand people in the U.S. wake up every year with a sudden onset of Bell’s Palsy, a rare facial paralysis affecting not only your face, but every aspect of your external life.
Now, four weeks into his recovery, our Brody Carter says he’s on the mend thanks to his positive attitude and support from loved ones during this unexpected life event.
“I was anchoring the morning show with Deanna Falzone when I noticed some pain in the nape of my neck and my smile felt a little crooked,” Carter said. “I went to the doctor for what I thought was an ear infection; turns out it was the beginning stages of Bell’s Palsy.”
After bouncing around from primary care physicians, acupuncturists and chiropractors, Dr. Nicholas Lannen, a neurologist with Spectrum Health, took on his case.
“So Bell's Palsy is hard (in terms of treatment); there's not a definitive cure.” Dr. Lannen said. “What we're trying to do is treat inflammation of the seventh cranial nerve, and that's why it's important to also get in to the doctor early.”
Dr. Lannen went on to say the sooner you start treatment for Bell’s Palsy, the better your outcome will be. He estimates 80 percent of patients will experience significant improvement within three to six months.
With regards to the seventh cranial nerve, it makes many connections throughout your face, affecting your forehead, eyebrow, cheek and lips. It also makes connections to your eye, tongue and the inner working of your ear, which is why some people experience loud noises, bright lights, strange taste.
The diagnosis can be scary, and what’s even more alarming is that it can affect anyone, at any time.
“It can be very frightening when you lose function; we take a lot for granted until we lose it,” Dr. Lannen said.
The condition is named after Sir. Charles Bell, a 19th-century Scottish doctor and surgeon. Its discovery dates back even further to 9th-century Persia. Today, the rare illness affects roughly 40,000 people every year in the U.S. Causes range from Chicken Pox, Shingles, Lyme disease, stress, high blood pressure or ear infection, to name a few.
“Thankfully we were in the middle of a pandemic, so I was able to hide my crooked face with a mask and work from home,” said Carter. “Especially working in television, my face is how I communicate to the public. I’m just thankful to be on the mend.”
He hopes his story will help others going through something similar. Brody attributes his positive attitude to overcoming adversity, encouraging anyone experiencing symptoms to see a doctor immediately.