A case of facial palsy caused by brain tumor surgery.
On July 31, 2007, I underwent 12 hours of brain surgery to have a 4.5 cm brain tumor removed. It’s known in layman’s terms as an “acoustic neuroma.” An acoustic neuroma (also known as a vestibular schwannoma ) is a rare, but benign, usually slow-growing tumor on the vestibular portion of the eighth cranial nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain.
Just to backtrack, let me list the symptoms that led up to my diagnosis. Prior to the surgery, I had been suffering with tinnitus (ringing in my ears) for 8 years – starting in 1999. A few years after the tinnitus started, my tongue started to feel numb. In 2006, while living in Taipei for 6 months, I started seeing “lightning bolts.” I went to an eye doctor , because I feared I had a detached retina. He said that my retina was fine, and attributed my vision of these lightning bolts as a symptom of “old age.” I was 43 years old!
My symptoms began to get worse in the spring of 2007. I started to get sharp headaches, and I NEVER got headaches except as a young child before getting glasses. Even scarier than the headaches were episodes of dizziness that were so bad I couldn’t walk – I would just wait several minutes for the dizziness to subside. I told my doctor about the dizziness, visions of “lightning bolts,” and severe headaches, but she brushed these symptoms off and told me I had “ocular migraine headaches.” She gave me pamphlets to read and basically said there is little help available for migraines.
I had brain surgery en route to relocating from San Diego to Taipei. After leaving San Diego my husband, Sujoy ,and my daughter, Anjoli flew to the east coast of the United States for a 2-week visit with my family in Massachusetts. While sightseeing one day with my family, the dizziness was just awful – so bad that my cousin, who I was visiting at the time, told me that I was not to set foot on the plane without seeing a doctor in Massachusetts first. So, I ended up visiting the emergency room at a hospital in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and within 20 minutes of having a CT scan, I was correctly diagnosed with a vestibular schwannoma! I was relieved; because I had a feeling I had a brain tumor.
I was sent by ambulance an hour north to Massachusetts General Hospital. My brain tumor, though benign, was life threatening. It was very large and had been pressing against my brain stem.
A few days after arriving in Boston, a team of the top surgeons and Ear Nose and Throat doctors operated on me. As I mentioned, the surgery was quite lengthy – 12 hours! An excellent team of doctors removed the entire tumor. My neurosurgeon was Dr. Fred Barker and my ear doctor, from Mass. Eye and Ear was Dr. Michael McKenna.
I was not afraid AT ALL going into the surgery, for I knew I was in good hands, in one of the best hospitals in the world. I placed my life in God’s hands, and knew that, through the doctors, He would take care of me.
Following the surgery, I experienced somewhat severe facial paralysis, also known as “Bell’s Palsy.” This was deeply upsetting to me, and I became very depressed. I also had terrible pain in my neck and at the “wound” area of the surgery. Also, since the tumor grew around my nerve for hearing, I lost 100% of my hearing in my left ear.
I couldn’t close my left eye, and had a platinum weight inserted on my left eyelid so I could close it. Also, after leaving the hospital I experienced terrible insomnia. This was quite disturbing to me, since I knew that my recovery was contingent upon adequate rest.
My husband and daughter flew to Taipei a few weeks after my surgery, as my daughter had to start 4th grade at the Taipei American School. I missed them terribly. It was awful to have to recover from major surgery without them. I asked for special permission to fly to Taipei after recovering for just 4 weeks.
About a week after landing in Taipei, I visited general practitioner Dr. Gao in Tienmou to see if he could refer me to a good neurosurgeon for follow up appointments, but mainly to obtain a prescription for antidepressants.
Dr. Gao was so kind to me. I broke down and cried while telling him of my surgery and he could clearly see how severe my facial palsy was. He held my hands and said, “of course you are UPSET! You are experiencing post-traumatic stress syndrome!”
I asked him if he could also recommend a good Chinese Medicine doctor, as my neurosurgeon recommended that I try acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. (My neurosurgeon told me that he knew nothing about Chinese Medicine, but that it “couldn’t hurt to try!”).
Dr. Gao told me that he once had an episode of hearing loss in one of his ears, so he visited Dr. Chang. To Dr. Gao’s delight, Dr. Chang restored Dr. Gao’s hearing. Dr. Gao spoke highly of Dr. Chang, and explained that he was a well-respected and highly reputable doctor – one of the best in the field of Chinese Medicine in Taiwan.
So, in October of 2007 I visited Dr. Chang. He told me that he had success in treating facial palsy. I was so happy. He gave me powdered Chinese medicine and a special herbal tea (a “secret” blend of his). He told me that it would most likely be a very slow recovery since the tumor that was removed was so large. I felt better just visiting him; he is so caring, calm and positive.
So, for about 4 months I went to visit Dr. Chang for acupuncture and moxibustion treatments. I had read that for facial palsy, it was necessary to receive both moxibustion and acupuncture. Moxibustion is the application of heat resulting from the burning of a small bundle of tightly bound mugwort leaves to targeted acupoints.
Within 2-3 weeks of visiting Dr. Chang, I no longer had insomnia! THAT was a HUGE miracle, in my eyes. About a month after starting treatment with Dr. Chang I ran in the Terry Fox Run for Cancer – a 5k run!
As I mentioned, I had (and still have) a platinum weight inserted in my left eyelid to help it close. Even with this weight, I could not close my left eye when I laid down on Dr. Chang’s table for my treatments. I had to close it with my index finger. Within about a month of taking Dr. Chang’s herbs and receiving acupuncture treatments, I was able to close my left eye without using my index finger.
My husband and I watched carefully for signs of healing from the Bell’s Palsy. Prior to getting acupuncture, the left side of my face was quite slack, and my eyebrows were quite uneven – as you can see in the “before” picture. Gradually, we noticed that my eyebrows became even and I started to develop a nasolabial fold on the left side of my face. I did not have a nasolabial fold after the surgery. (Nasolabial folds are the deep folds that run from the side of the nose to the corner of the mouth). My mouth, which sloped down on my left side slowly started to straighten over time.
By January of 2008, many people were commenting on how much by face had improved.My eyebrows were even and my mouth was nearly straight. I was much happier and the anti-depressants helped take care of my depression. I continued to exercise regularly which helped a great deal. (I still exercise regularly, of course!).
2008年1月，許多人都說我的臉有了很大的改善。我的眉毛還有我的嘴幾乎回復成直線了，我也很開心抗抑鬱藥也幫助我的抑鬱症有所改善，因為我還是繼續保持運動習慣，這是一個不錯的紓壓方式。（我還經常運動，當然！ ） 。
By December of 2008, ALL of my pain – in my neck and in my head (at the wound site) disappeared. This was a great relief to me. I think the recovery from the surgery is just very lengthy, but I have no doubt that Dr. Chang’s medicines helped aid my recovery.
Even though my face was improving and the pain had subsided, I complained to Dr. Chang that I was ALWAYS tired. I was SO tired of feeling tired! Dr. Chang explained that I need to tonify my “chi.” Chi is the body’s life energy. So, in November of 2008, Dr. Chang prescribed his “cooked medicine” to me. Every day, I cook a wonderful mixture of all kinds of herbs – flowers, pieces of what look like bark and twigs, and small muslin bags of herbs in 1400 ml of water in a ceramic pot for one and a half hours. I am THRILLED to say that, within a week of taking Dr. Chang’s “cooked medicine,” I finally had energy! I can honestly say that I have never felt so good as I have been since taking this medicine. I drink one cup in the morning and one cup in the afternoon. I have energy, I feel strong and I no longer have “brain fog.” I have recently become addicted to crossword puzzles – and my mind has never been sharper! I complete them very quickly!
At present (February, 2009) my Bell’s Palsy continues to improve. My smile on my left side is slowly turning upward, although my mouth still is uneven with an open mouthed smile. I now keep my mouth closed when I smile for pictures, but I will never stop smiling/laughing when I am NOT posing, of course!
I am so grateful for the wonderful medical care I have received during such a tumultuous health crisis. Drs. Barker and McKenna did a wonderful job debulking my tumor - and since they were able to remove tumor in its entirety, the chances of it regrowing are slim. I had an MRI about one year after my surgery and the MRI showed NO signs of tumor regrowth! Phew!
再經過這樣健康危機後，我很慶幸我得到這樣的妥善的治療，Drs. Barker and McKenna成功的幫我開了腦部手術，而且再復發的機會也不高。我之後也照了MRI，報告也顯示出沒有腫瘤的跡象。
I know that the Lord was watching out for me when he led me to ALL of these doctors, especially Dr. Chang. I still receive acupuncture twice a week. I look forward to my acupuncture visits. I always feel peaceful after seeing him and his kind, dedicated staff. Dr. Chang gave me hope when I needed it most. He is an answer to my prayers.