Mystery illness leaves woman’s face paralyzed

LONDON —  A 26-year-old woman experienced a startling medical emergency when she woke up one morning to find the left side of her face paralyzed. Initially believing she had a head cold, Caoimhe Reddy initially thought her cheek was numb from “sleeping funny.” However, her concern escalated when she was unable to sip her morning coffee, and she saw her reflection in the mirror, revealing her paralysis.

“I hated my smile. And now my face is half frozen and I can’t smile,”  says the account manager from Ireland, now residing in West London, in an online video post.

Reddy’s ordeal began on the night of Aug. 19, 2023 when she went to bed with what she believed to be a mild head cold. The next morning, the left side of her face was immobile. She did not realize the severity of her condition until she tried to drink coffee, and it spilled from her mouth.

“My rational brain didn’t think anything of it at first, just ‘Oh, that’s a bit weird.’ I looked in the mirror and found my face was paralyzed – but there was no numbness, no tingling – it felt just the same as it did the night before,” Reddy explains.

Woman sitting in front of camera,, showing shot of her paralyzed face
Caoimhe Reddy (Credit: Caoimhe Reddy/SWNS)

Her fiancé, a 29-year-old financial advisor, urged her to call 111, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service medical helpline — like 911 in the U.S. Expecting to be told to “just walk it off,” Reddy was shocked when an ambulance was dispatched to assess if she had suffered a stroke.

“I literally felt my soul leave my body,” she says, recounting her fear and disbelief at the possibility of a stroke at her age.

Rushed to Charing Cross Hospital, paramedics were initially uncertain if her symptoms indicated a stroke, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), or an infection. Despite multiple MRIs and neurological tests, doctors were unable to confirm a stroke and sent her home with steroid tablets. However, she had to return to the hospital six times over seven weeks for further tests. Ultimately, doctors speculated that her facial nerves might be inflamed, possibly due to an infection, though her blood tests were clear.

The paralysis shows no signs of improvement. Reddy struggles with eating, drinking, and speaking, especially pronouncing words with “P” and “B” sounds.

“I’m trying to win a mental battle with myself overeating and drinking in public. It’s just not an elegant process; I can’t close my mouth. It’s even affected half my tongue – because half my tongue is paralyzed, I’ve also lost half the use of my taste buds.”

Despite the challenges, Reddy is determined to face her condition with positivity. She has taken up running to improve her fitness and started acupuncture to maintain her mental health.

“I just want to be as happy and healthy as possible,” she says.

YouTube video

South West News Service writer Hannah Van De Peer contributed to this report


  1. Paralysis of the body may happen by intake of too much or too many of the same minerals
    such as contained in bananas. It can or may happen in certain parts of the body.
    Excess oxygen boost does not allow the muscles to work properly & they seem to freeze
    in place. I have written essay’s about the body health.

  2. Bell’s palsy?


    Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes sudden weakness in the muscles on one side of the face. In most cases, the weakness is temporary and significantly improves over weeks. The weakness makes half of the face appear to droop. Smiles are one-sided, and the eye on the affected side resists closing.

    Bell’s palsy is also known as acute peripheral facial palsy of unknown cause. It can occur at any age. The exact cause is unknown. Experts think it’s caused by swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of the face. It could be caused by a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.

    Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell’s palsy symptoms for life. Rarely, Bell’s palsy occurs more than once.

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