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For more than a hundred days I have been ill with a condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a rare and unpleasant viral thing—dormant chicken pox that reactivates in a hapless few, years after being forgotten.
A strain of herpes, and a close relative of shingles, it attacks the nerves in the head and body. In my case, it rendered deaf my left ear, and visited me with facial palsy—left eye partially paralyzed, mouth misshapen, speech lumpy, frown lines obliterated on the left side of my forehead. The state of my eye made reading and writing impossible for more than short periods, hence my extended absence from First Things.
Discharge - Hospital - Easter - Trip - Andalusia
After my discharge from hospital at Easter, I ill-advisedly left for a long-planned trip to Andalusia, where I had a serious relapse. There, I experienced pure vertigo. Moving my head even slightly sent me into a tailspin of swirly-wooziness, as though I were reeling backward into space, with no hope of saving myself.
Ramsay Hunt—called after James Ramsay Hunt, an American neurologist of the late 19th and early 20th century—is a peculiar condition. It attacks the body through the instruments of cognition, bringing with it a form of dread that invades the imagination as much as the body. Following the relapse, an email exchange with my specialist back home threw up the possibility that the herpes zoster virus might have entered the lining of my brain and unleashed herpes encephalitis, which can cause brain damage or death. My doctor said I should immediately have my brain scanned at the local hospital.
Weekend - Hours - Fears - Topsy - Day
This proved impossible to do over the weekend, and so I spent forty-eight hours alone with my fears, which grow’d like Topsy by day and by night. The English idiom—“I was afraid”—is inadequate. Better the Irish: “Bhí faitíos orm”—“There was fear on me.” Like...
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"However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8