Christmas Day 2003 was the day that Clare Mount "lost" her smile to a condition known as Bell's palsy. On the day after Christmas that year, the 40-year-old from South Wales woke up with a part of her face paralysed. Bell's palsy is a condition in which the muscles on one side of the face become weak or paralysed, leading to a "droop".
"My right-hand side had dropped such a huge amount. It didn't even look like it belonged to me," recounted Clare in an interview to the Facial Palsy organisation. "I couldn't speak without slurring, I couldn't blink, nothing. I was scared and I was devastated."
Bell's palsy affects up to 24,000 people each year in the UK alone, reports BBC. But of awareness means many still cannot get timely treatment.
Steroids in the first 72 hours of the condition onset can help, but Clare did not receive the treatment she needed in 2003.
"The doctor told us it was Bell's palsy and nothing to worry about as it would heal and that I should see my own GP. No prescription was given, no treatment other than rest," she said to the Facial Palsy organisation.
In eight out of 10 cases, people recover from Bell's palsy, according to BBC. The effects to their face reverse within weeks or months. Clare, however, has lived with this condition for 15 years.
In her interview, she talks about how living with Bell's palsy affected her - she was bullied, she spent years trying to find a treatment that would work, and her anxiety got worse.
But after getting online advice from another person with Bell's palsy, Clare recently learned of a specialist facial palsy team at a hospital in Swansea - and has managed to secure an appointment.
"At the moment I am on cloud nine. Not only do I have options and hope, I am raising awareness within my support network and their friends," she says.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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