Left-wing radio host Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy last month and continued to work with the disease. In her syndicated column, she described the experience:
I was just in Santa Fe, N.M., interviewing Tim Flannery, voted 2007 Australian of the Year for his remarkable work as an explorer, paleontologist, zoologist and climate-change scientist. Before we went on the stage, I apologized for my crooked smile. He said he knew the feeling, having had shingles, a more painful viral condition that affects one side of the face. I was beginning to feel less and less alone.
The next day we broadcast from the New Mexico state Legislature. The cameraman told me that Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame, had just been in. He had been doing an interview with his wife from a remote studio with Larry King. The cameraman told Wilson that I had Bell’s palsy. He said that he, too, had suffered a bout of it. I caught up with Wilson after our morning broadcast. He described what happened to him. It was 10 years ago. He had just gotten off Air Force One in Africa with President Clinton. He splashed some water on his face, looked in the mirror and saw the telltale face sag, unblinking eye and mouth droop; he thought he had had a stroke.
I feel fortunate to have good health insurance, yet feel unfortunate to live in a society where other people’s access to health care is subject to the whims of fortune. The hardest part of this temporary bout has been how tough it is to smile. It has made me realize what a precious gift a smile is. It reminds me of the world’s most famous smile, or, actually, half-smile, the Mona Lisa’s. Perhaps even she had Bell’s palsy.
Ah, disease recovery and namedropping: The gifts that keep on giving.