I was told I looked like a zombie. Now I'm smiling again

BEFORE AND AFTER: Vicki Hand developed facial palsy on the left side of her face, right, and, left, how she looks after surgery.

BEFORE AND AFTER: Vicki Hand developed facial palsy on the left side of her face, right, and, left, how she looks after surgery.

First published in News Worcester News: Photograph of the Author by

A YOUNG teacher from Worcester who was told she looked like a ‘zombie’ after her face was paralysed can finally smile again.

Vicki Hand developed facial palsy on the left side of her face when she was just 16 and was even compared to a zombie from the film Shaun of the Dead.

Now she is determined to raise money for the charity Facial Palsy UK to help others like her to smile again.

Doctors initially thought she had Bell’s Palsy but at the age of 24 she had an MRI scan which revealed a benign tumour which was later removed.

Miss Hand, aged 26, of Bicton Avenue, St Peter’s, Worcester, who teaches year three pupils at Woodhouse Primary School in Quinton, Birmingham, said: “My eye was affected the most and caused big problems, as it would be red and bloodshot, and sore. “I went back for the results on my own and it was dreadful. The doctor showed me the MRI scan and pointed out my facial nerve with something pushing against it. ‘That’s a tumour’, he said. I really didn’t contemplate anything like that – I couldn’t believe it.”

She said: “It was disgraceful that no one picked up on it given the number of specialists I’d seen, including physiotherapists. After I had the tumour removed the facial palsy was slightly worse for a while.”

She attended the Lindens Clinic in Manchester where they gave her a tens machine but the results were not as good as she hoped.

As a 16-year-old Miss Hand said the condition was ‘horrendous’ but was lucky enough to have ‘brilliant’ friends and never got bullied, even giving a presentation at sixth form about it.

She said: “Now, as a teacher, the kids in my class have never really said anything about it, but sometimes when I’m walking down the corridor and I smile at the little kids, they’ll ask ‘What’s happened to your face? “People don’t know about facial palsy and they need to be more aware. I was in a chip shop after a night out and a lad said ‘What’s the matter with you? You look like one of the zombies from Shaun of the Dead, your eye’s so red and veiny’. I told him I’d had a brain tumour and he said, ‘Haven’t we all?’ People can be idiots.”

Facial Palsy is not a ‘cosmetic’ but a functional problem affecting activities such as eating, drinking and protecting the eye. Miss Hand had a gold weight put in her eyelid to help her blink and needed surgery to make her eyes symmetrical. She has a reduced field of vision in her left eye which is also a source of pain and fatigue.

Last summer she had more surgery to help improve the symmetry of her face and to give her back her smile with muscle taken out of her leg and implanted in her face.

She said: “Now I can smile again – it’s amazing.”

GIG WILL HELP OTHERS WITH CONDITION Miss Hand has organised a gig to raise money for a charity which helps people with the same condition.

The Facial Palsy UK Benefit gig is scheduled to take place at Keystones, Copenhagen Street, Worcester on Friday, February 1 from 8pm onwards. The band is The Ex Presidents followed by Chris Bennion DJ after the band has finished playing.

Many local businesses have donated raffle prizes from bottles of wine to meal vouchers.

Following keystones Bushwhackers nightclub has offered free entrance between 1am and 1.30am.

All proceeds to go to Facial Palsy UK, which highlights to health professionals which patients need specialist treatment, providing support so people do not feel isolated and alone.

Tickets are £5.

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