The same thing could be said about peace-loving Thais, who watched in quiet desperation as chaos blazed through the city. The sharp pain in the back of my right ear that preceded and accompanied the paralysis could not compare to the pain many Thais felt that day.
Friends wrote to me after hearing that I was afflicted by this disease that I could not and should not take ownership of our country's problems. "Just take it easy," they all said. "Life is too short."
Just as the notion of "democracy" and its meaning - which is the crux of and supposedly the justification for the red shirts' demands - remains hard to pin down, the virus that causes Bell's Palsy has not conclusively been identified. A Scottish surgeon and anatomist named Sir Charles Bell discovered the syndrome in 1821. Still, almost 200 years later, much controversy surrounds the disease's etiology and its management.
The precise pathophysiology of Bell's Palsy is the subject of continuing debate. The most popular theory proposes that some still unidentifiable virus infects the 7th cranial nerve or the facial nerve and causes inflammation and swelling of the nerve. This nerve exits the skull near the ear and splits into thousands of small nerve fibres that spread to the face, neck, tongue and the saliva glands. These nerves control facial expressions, the muscles of the forehead, tear glands, saliva glands that affect the taste sensation, and those that control the perception of sound, which can make voices suddenly seem too loud. If this facial nerve becomes inflamed and swollen from infection, it gets pinched and compressed in the tight fallopian corridor. Pressure from the bone can damage the protective covering of the nerve and interfere with communication between the nerve and the facial muscles, resulting in weakness or paralysis on the affected side of the face.
For treatment, I was put on a high dose of a steroid - Prednisone - for ten days to counter the inflammation at the onset. This is a panacea whose short-term benefit is a necessary evil that has to be weighed carefully against long-term damage to the body. But as I want to approach this disease in the same manner I deal with all my tasks in life - fast and furious - I took it gladly. Unfortunately, due to my physical state, I misread the label and took the wrong dose, which may have reduced the effectiveness of the treatment.
At the end of the Prednisone treatment, I suffered a setback called steroid withdrawal symptom or adrenal crisis. The symptoms comprise, among other things, severe pains in the joints, which turn stiff; profound weakness of the limbs and extremities; more contortion of the face; and shakiness and nausea. My body, I felt, was tearing into pieces. All of a sudden, I was forced to recognise a possible state of physical demise.
After the first week of infliction, I started electric therapy that involves releasing an electrical surge into the facial muscles to stimulate them, to coerce them to return from the crib. The aggressive electric treatment (at my own request) made the paralysed side of my face tender, causing it to send complaining signals to the right side of my head and behind my right earlobe, which caused more tightness of the afflicted muscles, which meant more headaches. Besides the occasional ability to close my right eye and some return of mouth coordination, I am still at first base and realise I have to rethink my combat strategy.
As debilitating and frightening as it is, the good news about Bell's Palsy is that patients, over varying periods of time ranging from three to more than 12 months, have a good chance of a partial or full recovery. In addition to conventional treatments there are alternative holistic methods such as vitamin B12 injection therapy, acupuncture and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Approximately 2 to 3 people out of 10,000 suffer from Bell's Palsy. Of this number, approximately 10 per cent will experience some degree of permanent paralysis. To date, there is no known guaranteed cure.
Meanwhile, I have adopted some coping measures such as wearing shades while working on the computer, to protect the right eye from irritation due to excessive light exposure. I have stopped having liquid food, unless I can use a straw to deal with the liquid part. I avoid saying some words that require the use of both sides of the mouth (a cruel pun not intended).
And because of this palsy, which affected me without warning, I have become more appreciative of the famous cliche in the movie "Forrest Gump" - that life is like a box of chocolates: we never know what we are going to get next.
With the country simmering with a strange undercurrent despite the appearance of a return to normalcy, I will have to deal with the palsy's residual effects for some time to come. The disease lends itself to prove a point, though - that balance is nature's intended ultimate design, and patience is what makes the world go round. As much as I wish it, I cannot make the palsy go away in an instant. Rome was not built in one day.
In our lifetime, in ways big and small, we fight one another ferociously and at times viciously because we forget the most simple and mundane fact about life - that none of us will ever get out of it alive. In the end, we all come up even, there are no real winners or losers. Alexander III of Macedon could conquer the world, but he could not beat this truth about our exit.
That given, shouldn't we all try a bit harder to make life more liveable by trying to be kinder towards one another every time we have a chance, before we run out of such chances. Why are we coy about doing that? What have we got to lose?