Eye twitch turns out to be shingles, leaving teacher’s face paralysed and with permanent nerve damage

Tanya Rust. (Photo: Media Drum World/Magazinefeatures.co.za)
Tanya Rust. (Photo: Media Drum World/Magazinefeatures.co.za)

A Canadian woman was left with half her body paralysed after doctors failed to diagnose a spot on her ear as shingles.

Counselling professor, Tanya Rust (29) from Montreal, Canada, was teaching a university course in 2017 when the overwhelming stress started causing baffling side effects.

“Leading up to 13 May 2017 I had been stressed because I was teaching, speaking at conferences, organising a conference and involved in several committees,” Tanya said.

“I woke up that day with pain in my ear and jaw area and had a graduation ceremony to go to.”

At the ceremony, Tanya noticed twitching in her right eye before experiencing pain between her ear and jaw on the right side of her face.

“It was an odd sensation and uncomfortable as I’d never really experienced twitching in my face before. I found the pain and the twitching to be odd as it was different and weird.”

Later that day the twitching spread to the entire right side of Tanya’s face.

Although she knew her symptoms were strange, Tanya tried to remain calm.

But within hours she was no longer able to blink. She was taken to hospital after two hours of not being able to close her right eye and experiencing numbness all down her right side.

Nurses did a strength test which highlighted significant differences in Tanya’s strength on her left and right sides.

She was checked for shingles, but nurses only checked her ear canal and didn’t inspect her outer ear for shingles.

Tanya was misdiagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and was told to return for a neurological exam the following day.

“The doctor told me that I was his first patient ever with facial palsy, which didn’t fill me with confidence.

“So, I was sent home and for eight days. I had excruciating pain and further paralysis set in in my face. I had difficulty eating and drinking, I even had to eat applesauce with a straw.

“My ear was itchy and the sore, which I thought was a pimple, had two other sores near it that hurt to touch.”

Tanya returned to the hospital where they discovered a previously unseen sore in her outer ear had spread.

Doctors diagnosed Tanya with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (RHS) after her misdiagnosis. 

The late diagnosis meant that the shingles had time to develop and left Tanya with permanent damage.

“I was told the recovery process would be slower and I could possibly have permanent damage because of the shingles.”


Tanya now endures hypersensitive hearing because of her damaged nerves and must wear noise-cancelling headphones when she leaves the house.

She also suffers from frequent tinnitus and Functional Neurological Disorder as a result of nerve damage – her brain sends and receives confused signals which result in hand tremors among other symptoms.

“Mentally I struggled fighting off thoughts like, ‘Will I ever be normal again?’ or, ‘What if my smile never comes back?’,” said Tanya.

“My hope is that I can continue to inspire people who are struggling with any type of chronic illness as I know it’s difficult to find support. 

“My YouTube channel, Tanyatastic Talks, has opened up a world I couldn’t understand prior to this experience. I’ve been able to help people who’ve experienced these health issues and help educate others who haven’t.”

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24