These are the shocking before and after pictures of a mother who was convinced she was having a stroke after half of her face became paralysed.
Vhari King, 40, was left horrified after what felt like a simple cough left her unable to use the right side of her face.
She said she had experienced a cough four days prior to this “but didn’t think anything of it” until she woke up the following day thinking she was having a stroke.
Vhari, who is a cardiology nurse at Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, said: “I had no idea what was going on, I just thought I had to get on with it.
“I couldn’t drink my coffee, it was just dribbling out of my mouth and when I was trying to do my mascara to get ready for work, it just wouldn’t go on – my eye was so irritated.”
Doctors diagnosed Vhari with Ramsay Hunt syndrome August last year – a rare form of shingles that attacks the facial nerves.
The mum-of-two said: “I was scared. I couldn’t leave the house because I couldn’t shut my eye in case it was windy, and I had to tape my eye down every night otherwise I would sleep with one eye open.
“I remember asking the doctor if I would be able to smile again and he couldn’t give me an answer, I just burst into tears.
“I couldn’t bare any noise. I literally went from being the life and soul of the party to being a recluse.”
Her symptoms started in August last year when she was suffering from tickly dry cough – but thought she was just run down from work and her personal life.
She said: “All I had was a sore throat. I didn’t think anything of it I am a busy mum and a nurse.
“I just thought I should take some painkillers because when I had a look in my mouth I couldn’t see anything wrong – I saw these tiny blisters but you just don’t think.
“And then I was driving on my way back from work and I was drinking a can of Irn-Bru and I was thinking this just isn’t tasting right, it was like the flavour just wasn’t there.”
But the next morning, when she woke she couldn’t move the right side of her face.
Vhari, who lives with her husband Dan and two children Lucia, eight, and Byron, five, in Horsford, Norwich, said: “I was in shock as I honestly had no idea what was wrong.
“I looked in the mirror and my face started to droop, I couldn’t move the right side of my face and my right eye was so irritated. It couldn’t stop watering.
“But typically I just kept going. I just thought I would go to work.
“But as I was trying to drink my coffee on the way to work but it was just going all over my face.
“I just thought I have to go to A&E because I thought I was having a stroke. I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t smile.
“And as soon as I arrived they looked at me and got the stroke team to come over immediately.”
Vhari says she was refereed for a blood test, ECG, blood pressure, and urgent CT scan but results came back and nothing appeared to be wrong.
She was then referred to the neurology department in which they noted it was Ramsey Hunt syndrome.
She said: “They saw that I had blisters in the roof of my mouth and in my ears. They said I think it is Ramsey Hunt syndrome and I was then referred to the ENT (ear nose and throat department).
“They gave me 16 tablets to take a day, but I couldn’t swallow and I couldn’t drink, so that was really difficult.
“And it was once I got home, that is when it all went down hill. I was in bed for four weeks.
“I was suffering from exhaustion, I just slept for hours and hours and I was just so disorientated.
“I had an abcess in my mouth and I didn’t know about it and when I was brushing my teeth, I couldn’t feel what I was doing and I pulled my tooth out.
“Everything was just horrible.”
Vhari was taking a mixture of medicines including painkillers, eye drops, steroids and antiviral medication.
She was signed off from work for five months, as the condition causes fatigue, hearing problems and vertigo in addition to the pain and facial paralysis.
But now she is able smile again Vhari wants to raise awareness for Ramsay Hunt syndrome because if untreated for longer the 72 hours the person may experience more permanent side effects.
Vhari, who also runs an online makeup business called Younique, said: “I would really like to raise awareness about this because it affected me working.
“How could I show people what makeup I loved when I hated my face and hid from the world.”
Karen Johnson, deputy chief executive of Facial Palsy UK said: “With Ramsay Hunt syndrome it’s important to get the right medication within 72 hours for the best chance of recovery so early diagnosis is really important. Vhari was extremely fortunate that the hospital acted so quickly.
“Facial Palsy UK undertook a survey last year that found more than one in two patients are initially misdiagnosed.
“We speak to people every day who have suffered long-term complications such as loss of vision, hearing and facial movement, as a result of delayed treatment and poor after-care. We would like to see the care Vhari received replicated in hospitals across the UK.”
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