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Nurse thought she was having a stroke after rare condition caused her face to collapse

PUBLISHED: 16:08 07 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:37 08 May 2019

Left, Vhari King after she was hit with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Right, before. Photo: Vhari King

Left, Vhari King after she was hit with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Right, before. Photo: Vhari King

Vhari King

These are the shocking before-and-after images that greeted a Norfolk nurse when the right side of her face collapsed.

Vhari King, from Horsford, who was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Pictured before her diagnoses. Photo: Vhari KingVhari King, from Horsford, who was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Pictured before her diagnoses. Photo: Vhari King

Vhari King was horrified when she looked in the mirror on an August morning last year and saw her startling reflection.

Mother-of-two Mrs King, from Horsford, had suffered Ramsay Hunt syndrome - a rare form of shingles that attacks the facial nerves.

The 40-year-old cardiology nurse could not move one side of her face, her eye would not close and she could not keep drink in her mouth - and was soon questioning whether she would be able to show her face in public again.

Now, after months of treatment and rehabilitation, she is able to smile again - and wants to thank the medics who treated her.

Vhari King, from Horsford, who was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Photo: Vhari KingVhari King, from Horsford, who was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Photo: Vhari King

It all began last August when Mrs King had been suffering with a painful throat for several days, but imagined she was just run down as not only had she suffered three deaths of loved ones, she was also training for her fourth marathon.

She took painkillers, noticed a blister on the roof of her mouth, and said: "On my way home from work that evening I was drinking a can of Irn Bru and it didn't taste right, it was like the flavour was missing."

The next morning, she said: "That's when I realised something was wrong. My face felt weird, I couldn't move the right side of my face and my right eye was so irritated. I was in shock as I honestly had no idea what was wrong."

Mrs King, who works at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) decided to go to work. But she found when trying to drink from her travel mug, coffee ran out of her mouth. She said: "I thought I was having a stroke, I was petrified."

The blister in Vhari King's mouth. Photo: Vhari KingThe blister in Vhari King's mouth. Photo: Vhari King

When she got to the hospital she could no longer speak and was diagnosed with Ramsey Hunt syndrome.

She was given an eye patch, eye drops, steroids, antivirals, painkillers and sent home with a follow-up appointment. She said: "I cried for what seemed like days. I couldn't talk, taste or swallow."

Mrs King, needed five months off work, as the condition causes fatigue, hearing problems and vertigo in addition to the pain and facial paralysis.

Now able to smile again, Mrs King said: "I feel nothing but gratitude for all the care and treatment I received. If I hadn't had the treatment so promptly, my outcome could have been so different.

"Today I still get tired, I still can't close my right eye fully, which I don't think will ever return. But I can smile again - even though I lost a tooth to an abscess I couldn't feel. I'm back running, not a lot in comparison to what I was doing.

"Being so poorly and having enforced rest by my body meant I had time to reflect. Things had to change so I didn't get poorly again. I now say no to things. I take time out for me. I don't overwork myself and I'll now ask for help."

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.

"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."

For more information about facial paralysis visit www.facialpalsy.org.uk

The charity also runs a quarterly support group from the NNUH.

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