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••• The International Writers Magazine - 24 Years on-line - Lifestyles

Saved by a Bagel
• Katherine Jordan
It began with a tingling sensation ...


It was a crisp Friday in October when it happened. The wind picked up ocean droplets, sending them inland to let us know the sea and the weekend were near. A start like any Friday—then became something else. But thank goodness for the bagel that saved my face.

Einstein Bagels, our local breakfast joint, had been part of my college morning routine since my sophomore year. My tastebuds craved the creamy option of an asiago bagel with plain cream cheese. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday started with my roommate and me riding the bus, grabbing our bagels, sitting at the bagel bar with morning conversations.


“What do you have to do today?”

 “Well, I have work till 11, and then my history class if it doesn’t get canceled—again,” chuckled my roommate.

“How do y’all get anything done with every other class being cancelled,” I laughed.

I took another bite—and paused.

“My mouth feels funny,” I told my roommate

“Like an allergic reaction kind of funny?”

While chewing my cheesy, creamy breakfast, a tingling sensation crept across the right side of my top lip. 

I took another bite, testing the foreign sensations with exaggerated chews like a lion tearing flesh from his prey.

The corner where my lips met felt as if it were being pulled down by a mysterious weight. As I explained the feeling to my breakfast companion, the tingling extended its virulent tentacles to the edge of my cheeks and along my jaw.

Breakfast bagels and routine were suddenly less important.

“What’s happening? Do my lips look weird to you?”

“Does your head hurt? Can you feel the right side of your body,” interrogated my roommate.

Our fear was that I was about to have a stroke, signaled by the loss of feeling on one side of the body. But, something told me this wasn’t that—or maybe I just didn’t want to admit that it could be.

“No, it’s just my face. It feels itchy like a hair caught against my skin. Nothing hurts,” I said, trying to sort through real feelings rather than sensations induced by run-away panic.

After a short pause, we decided to go to the ER. Our great fortune was we were only a ten-minute walk to the emergency room.

My great misfortune: my insurance card was back at our apartment.

With panicked adrenaline surging like a raging river, I sat waiting for the bus. Anxiety caused my hands to go numb, which only added to the fears. My roommate chose to join me on my chaotic endeavor. She tried her best to keep me calm, reassuring me that we’ll be at the apartment soon and off to the ER for answers, all the while watching me like a mother bird. At a moment’s notice, I knew she would summon an ambulance.

Waiting. Waiting. I pulled my phone out to see my reflection. This makeshift mirror exposed the two faces peering back at me. One showed fear while the other indifference. Every glimpse reflected half of my face drooping into a state of immovable weight.

Tingling turned to numbness. My right eyelid appeared frozen, unable to fully open or close while the left fluttered freely. Facial muscles twitched rapidly. I scratched at my face, feeling only pressure—no pain. But a wall, strong as the Great Wall of China, stood along the middle of my face, stopping whatever was happening on the right from reaching the left.

After a frantic trip to the apartment and grabbing the insurance card, an Uber dropped us at the ER.

When checked in, I was gifted a stylish medical band showing my name and a barcode. Contrary to most ER stories, the wait was only ten minutes. Silence pervaded and choked us as we saw a patient called ahead of us.

Soon the silence was replaced by the doctor.

Looking at my two faces, he asked me to lift my eyebrows and smile. Then his cold, rubber gloved fingers lightly pressed on my eyelids.

“Please open them,” he asked.

Only one opened.

“You have partial face paralysis that’s called Bell’s Palsy,” he announced. “It’s triggered by a virus in the nervous system.”

Turns out this virus attacks the seventh cranial nerve, a pretty important facial nerve controlling muscles and nerves, like a traffic cop who took an unannounced break.

After giving me the needed prescriptions and the ok to leave, he asked, “How long have you been having these symptoms?”

“Just a couple hours. I started feeling weird while eating my bagel.”

“Most people don’t notice the symptoms for a couple days before coming in, causing more serious paralysis. For most effectiveness, it’s best to get on the medicine in the first twenty-four hours. That bagel saved your face.”

© Katherine Jordan, a English and Music major at the College of Charleston March 2023

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