It's Monday night. As usual, I show up for band rehearsal a few minutes early to warm up. I'm packing two horns in my Reunion Blues doubler bag, an old English Besson shepherd's crook cornet and a Bach Stradivarius trumpet. I may be a hacker, but I come well-equipped. I'm cool.
I decide to warm up on the cornet. I normally start with long tones in the lowest range. I put my lips to the mouthpiece and start to blow. The cornet sounds weird, a bit stuffy, as if it has a blockage. I keep trying. It's playing, but it sounds lousy. I put it away and pull out my trumpet. Damn, if I'm not having the same problem... This confuses and depresses me, but I decide to continue on.
James calls a number and we start to play. I'm still having a rough time, but I keep trying, stopping every now-and-then to give it a rest. My lips feel puffy. I realize the problem is with me, not with my horns. After a couple of pieces, I call it quits and head home. I think I am having an allergy problem. I figure it will be gone by morning.
Amy is glad to see me home early. We walk the dog for 40 minutes. I feel fine. I read until I am ready to go to sleep. When I get up in the morning, I realize I am not fine. I look in the mirror. It looks like the right side of my face, not just the lip, is puffy. Otherwise, everything seems okay.
By evening, the family is starting to take notice of my face. The kid says I am not blinking with my left eye. I think he's kidding. But, by Wednesday morning, I realize he is right. The problem is with the left side. It's droopy and not functioning right. I'm thinking Bell's Palsy. Amy and my buddy Walter are thinking stroke. They are urging me to go to the doctor. I know it's not a stroke. Or if it was, it was a small one and it's well over. Everything else is functioning fine. I have some tough stuff to get through while working at home. I am not having any problem doing my work. I tell them if I'm not better by the next morning, I will go see the doctor. That's just the way I roll - slowly...
It's Thursday morning. I am not better; I am not worse. I call the doctor's office. One is on vacation, the other one will not be in. The woman who answers the phone asks me to spell my name. I have trouble pronouncing the "V" in Virgil and again in Hervey. She tells me to go to the emergency room. She thinks I am having a stroke. Amy is at work. I know that going to the hospital will end up being an all-day affair. What am I going to do with the dog? It's going to be a 100 fffffffing degrees. (I'm having trouble with the "F" as well.) I can't leave her outside. Walter says he will drive me as soon as he is finished with a morning appointment. I call Amy. She says to leave the dog in the house with the AC on; she is coming home.
Amy gets home before Walter is done. We leave the dog and she drops me at the emergency room at Greene Memorial. The nurse who greets me is pretty, I mean really pretty. She seems concerned. They are not busy, so she gets me right into a room and starts asking questions. After she has heard the entire story, including the part about the trumpet and all that procrastination, she winks at me and whispers, "I'm thinking Bell's Palsy. But we're going to have to give you an EKG and a Cat Scan just to be sure." More nurses and technicians, poking and prodding and taking blood, like about 10 pints of blood, a chest x-ray, hooked up to oxygen. I look at the pretty nurse. She smiles and mouths the words to me again, "Bell's Palsy."
A physician's assistant comes on scene and asks me all the same questions. She is pretty too; not drop dead pretty like the first nurse, but kinda like Debra Winger, "Urban Cowby" pretty. When she hears that I first noticed the problem on Monday, she asks me what took me so long to get to the ER.
"I have an aversion to doctors and hospitals," I say.
She smirks. "It's probably Bell's Palsy," she says, "or by now you'd be in really bad shape."
"That's what I've been thinking all along."
They send me for the Cat Scan. The technician who rolls me up there asks me where I live. When she hears Yellow Springs, she tells me she lives in Xenia, but goes to Zumba at the Bryan Center. What is it with this ffffffing Zumba, anyway?
They leave me alone back in ER while they evaluate the tests. I have my e-book reader with me. I am reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the History of Middle East Conflict." I am alone for a half-hour or so. Amy has come and gone to the waiting room. She is barely talking to me. I'm just waiting to get checked out.
A doctor comes in and tells me I have Bell's Palsy. The pretty nurse is there, too. I tell her, "I kept telling everybody that's what's wrong with me." She smiles and reminds me not to wait so long the next time I have a problem.
I am alone again. A pretty fifty-something woman comes in and asks me to sign a paper. She starts removing all the sensors and other stuff they have stuck all over my body. She is flirting with me big time. I'm 67 and one-half of my face is like something from "The Phantom of the Opera." I'm thinking these people must have special training to make the patients feel good.
Get up this morning. Nothing has changed. I have trouble with my Fs, and Vs and now my Ps. I still look scary when I see myself in the mirror. But hey, it's only Bell's Palsy. It could be worse. And all those pretty nurses... Maybe I will get myself to the fffffing hospital sooner next time.