Recovery from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Life was going well for Brian Apprille, a professional stand-up comedian, and his wife in 2009.  They had recently purchased their first home together and were looking forward to the future. Then a week before his birthday, he experienced tremendous pain behind his left eye. He went to the hospital and was told he had a migraine and was sent home. Over the next week, he was at the doctor’s office or the emergency room daily as it got worse. While in the ER, he noticed he was slurring his words and couldn’t close his eye. A spinal tap revealed he had viral meningitis and was also diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. This left him with vertigo, a drooping face, total hearing loss in his left ear, blurred vision, and a loss of taste on his tongue. 

As months passed with little improvement, Brian searched for information and support options. “There was an online forum I went to, but it only made things worse. I couldn’t find anyone saying ‘Things get better.’ We were all lacking information and hope.” After nine months, he regained some of his hearing, his eye finally started to move again, but no luck with his smile.

“I thought my career was over. I make a living using my face. How could I possibly go out in public, how could I make people laugh?  I didn’t want to leave my house, let alone stand in a bright spotlight while everyone stared at me. I felt lost and extremely depressed. People tried to make me feel better, but unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand.”

Brian’s outlook started to change on a trip home to visit his family. “I was complaining about my face and I guess my humor started to show through as everyone started laughing at what I was saying. There’s an old expression, ‘Pain plus time equals comedy.’ I finally came to accept that what I was saying was funny, and then I knew what I had to do. I had to talk about it onstage and laugh at it. When you laugh at something, it takes away the power it holds over you.” He then started planning his return to the stage with a new purpose. “It’s my goal to try and help people going through this laugh, as well as bring awareness to others.” 

About a year ago he found out about The Facial Paralysis and Bell’s Palsy Foundation and their support groups. “They have forever changed my life. It’s so amazing to be around people who truly understand what you’re going through. There are so many brave and strong people in the groups. It’s so wonderful to not feel alone.” 

Brian is even planning to lead a new support group in the San Diego area beginning April 2017. “The biggest thing I take away from all of this is that I’m still alive. I can still listen to music, I can still visit the beach, still love so many things in life. My face might be different, but that does not change my heart or my humor. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and my faults again, as well as I’ve learned to continue to go out and chase my dreams.”

To watch a clip of Brian’s comedy routine, click here: