WACO, Texas – Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey has been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis that she says won’t change the way she coaches in the Final Four.
“When I smile it’s crooked and when I talk, and talk loud, the hollowness in my hearing is weird,” Mulkey said Thursday as she disclosed the ailment. “But it’s not going to keep me from hollering.”
Mulkey went to see two doctors and had an MRI on Wednesday instead of going to practice after she had what she described as a weird feeling in her mouth while eating, then saw in a mirror that her left eye was drooping and her smile was crooked. She had also noticed a strange feeling in her tongue while in Des Moines, Iowa, for the NCAA regional last weekend.
After checking with team trainer Alex Olson to make sure she wasn’t getting ready to have a stroke, he told her she needed to get immediate attention.
The diagnosis of Bell’s palsy came after the MRI that ruled out a tumor or a stroke.
“I know that I will recover,” Mulkey said. “It will take some time to recover and it may get worse before it gets better.”
Olson said Mulkey is being treated with anti-viral medication and oral steroids to reduce the inflammation of the facial nerve that causes the problem.
Baylor plays Stanford on Sunday in the NCAA tournament semifinals. The undefeated Lady Bears are two wins away from their second national championship under Mulkey and the NCAA’s first 40-win season.
The Lady Bears were leaving for Denver late Thursday, and Mulkey announced the diagnosis during the team’s scheduled news conference.
Baylor officials said Bell’s palsy is caused by a dysfunction of the facial nerve that results in the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side. The condition, believed by many doctors to be caused by a virus, usually has a rapid onset of partial or complete paralysis that often occurs overnight.
“I don’t obviously have a severe case of it,” Mulkey said. “Because I’ve seen the worst.”
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