It first started when she struggled to brush her teeth because she couldn’t open her mouth properly. A day later, her eyelid started twitching sporadically. And on the third day, during her shift on The Morning Show, Kiss92 radio DJ Carol Smith realised that she was starting to slur a little, and had lost some feeling and control of the right side of her mouth.

It prompted a visit to a general practitioner (GP), which saw her diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. The condition isn’t uncommon; worldwide statistics set the frequency at approximately one in every 5,000 people (Source: Healthhub). It has also affected celebrities like Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, and Pierce Brosnan.

Also according to Healthhub, Bell’s Palsy is a paralysis of the facial nerve, which results in the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact root cause, but the blame often falls on viral and bacterial infections, as well as autoimmune disorders.

Symptoms can vary according to the degree of nerve damage and the location of the damage. Common ones include facial drooping on the affected side, difficulty with facial expressions such as smiling and frowning, sensitivity to light and sound, pain in or near the ears, altered salivation function (lack or excessive salivation), and drooling. (More info can be found here).

For Carol, it impeded her ability to blink her right eye and move the right side of her face. It also took away her sense of taste. The 47-year-old shares with The Weekly her ordeal, her road to recovery, and how it affected her self-image.


It was on the evening of Sept 24, 2022 (Sat) that Carol started noticing that something was wrong. She couldn’t open her mouth properly while brushing her teeth. 

“I started to lose some feeling and control on the right side of my mouth. My eye also started feeling weird because I couldn’t seem to blink properly.”

Carol Smith

“I was struggling to get my toothbrush into the right side of my mouth because I couldn’t do that half smile you do when brushing your teeth,” she tells us. “I thought that I was just tired and perhaps needed good night’s rest. But the next morning, I realised that it hadn’t gone away.” Later that day, her eyelid started twitching periodically.

It wasn’t till the next morning on Monday, while she was on air for her show, that she realised that her speech was beginning to slur. “I started to lose some feeling and control on the right side of my mouth. My eye also started feeling weird because I couldn’t seem to blink properly.”

“I took a video of this with my phone and immediately realised something was very wrong. This was when I started to panic a little,” she recounts, recalling singer Justin Bieber’s video post about being diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome and thought that it felt similar. “I also wondered if I was having a stroke because a drooping face is one of the symptoms.”


Right after work, she headed to a GP. The doctor ruled out the likelihood of a stroke after a few checks and diagnosed it as Bell’s Palsy.

“While I was grateful it was not a stroke, I was still rattled as I had no idea what Bell’s Palsy was. No one I know has ever talked about it and there has never been any family history of the condition.”

Her doctor pointed out that it’s a common occurrence following an illness or sometimes even stress or lack of sleep; Carol had recently recovered from an acute respiratory infection the week before. “She also said that all I could do was to rest and let it heal on its own; that there’s no cure for it and that sometimes people don’t recover and their face remains permanently paralysed on one side.”

It was at this point that Carol broke down and cried at the doctor’s office as the thought of not recovering would directly impact her career as a radio DJ. “My doctor was thankfully very patient and reassured me that most patients do make a full recovery in a matter of three to nine months.”

She was also prescribed a course of steroids and Vitamin B pills to help with the pain and inflammation of the facial nerve.


Because she had consulted the GP during the immediate onset of Bell’s Palsy, things actually got worse before they got better. In the first week after the diagnosis, she lost the ability to blink her right eye and move the right side of her face. Unable to eat and swallow properly, eating became a challenge.

Recovery felt slow. “I had to dig food out of my mouth while eating since it would collect in the pocket between my gum and cheek,” she recounts. “Drinking water was a messy affair with water spilling everywhere each time I took a sip from my cup. I had also lost my sense of taste which was frustrating because I love my food!”

It took about four weeks before she was able to chew properly and for her tastebuds to be restored, although she was still unable to smile, blink or speak normally. But that was not the toughest part of her ordeal — she cites being on steroids to be the most challenging.

She says, “The steroids made me feel on edge and I had insomnia for three weeks. My mind was constantly racing and I was hungry all the time. I probably only got about three hours of sleep each night although what I needed most to recover was sleep.”


That was not all — she was hit with a double whammy of Covid-19 three weeks after getting Bell’s Palsy, which started with an extremely sore throat and led to a cough and cold. 

“I felt like this impeded my recovery from Bell’s Palsy as my body now had to fight infection as well. I also tried a box of over-the-counter Chinese Proprietary Medicine (CPM), but it only seemed to make things worse. I had previously not noticed any phlegm in my throat but after I took the pills, I had phlegm in my chest for weeks, and constantly felt congested!”


“I felt a little depressed at the time, but one day I came to terms with the fact that even if my face were to be like this for the rest of my life, there are still many other things I can do. “

Carol Smith

The thought of how she looked and if the condition would persist for a long time — or even indefinitely — was unsurprisingly foremost on her mind, especially given what she does for work.

In the first week of being diagnosed, she had to make the difficult decision to back out of hosting an awards ceremony where the guest of honour was President Halimah Yacob. “I didn’t think my slurred speech and inability to blink would set the audience at ease,” she says.

She also started to think about an alternative career if she couldn’t host her radio show. “I felt a little depressed at the time, but one day I came to terms with the fact that even if my face were to be like this for the rest of my life, there are still many other things I can do. What was more important was my spirit and that life would still go on! I started to explore options instead of limitations and the thought of becoming a dog breeder seemed enticing.”


There were also changes to be made at home and at work. Her management and colleagues were extremely supportive during this time, and she was given a leave of absence from work to recover. Instead of going on air, she took on back-end work for the time being.

“Because Bell’s Palsy can occur as a result of a weakened immune system, my beautiful colleagues sent over lots of high-protein food and anti-inflammatory drinks to aid my recovery and I’m deeply grateful for their thoughtful gestures,” she says.

Her husband, Euan MacInnes, was also right by her side throughout. She tells us, “My husband was a great source of emotional support especially since I was dealing with a lot of ‘unknowns’ at the time.”

Till today, there’s some pain on the affected side of her face and her eye begins to twitch occasionally. To manage this, she applies essential oils and massages the affected area to continue to stimulate the nerve. “It took me a while to get my energy levels back so I make sure that I’m disciplined with my bedtime since I’m up at 4.30am on weekdays for work. I also use an eye massager to help with the twitching and to help me relax after a long day.”


She wishes more people had talked about Bell’s Palsy so she could have better managed her fear at the start. “The lack of awareness of the condition really made me panic due to the many unknowns,” she says.

After she posted about it on social media, a few friends reached out to say that they or a loved one had experienced it before. Some had recovered in two weeks, others months, and another friend said her son never regained movement in his face following the condition. “The majority of those diagnosed did make a full recovery though, so that was encouraging. Everyone’s story seemed different; the symptoms were sudden but not everyone got it following an illness.”

She adds, “If you’re experiencing Bell’s Palsy now, do be patient as healing occurs at a different rate for everyone. Get lots of water and rest and be regular with your facial exercises as I feel it’s important to stimulate the facial nerve in order to regain movement in your face. Don’t force yourself to do anything that stresses you out or makes you uncomfortable.”