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MP's face paralysed by virus hours before talk

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 12, 2014

REOVERING: MP Stephen Gilbert in his office in St Austell after being diagnosed with Bell's palsy, which causes facial paralysis.

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MP STEPHEN Gilbert discharged himself from hospital after suffering what he thought was a stroke to speak in the Commons.

Mr Gilbert, 37, who represents St Austell and Newquay in Parliament, awoke on Wednesday to find the right side of his face was paralysed, leaving it difficult to speak or even smile.

Hours later the backbench MP was due in the House of Commons where he was to call on the Government to intervene to stop a European Commission directive which could impact on the china clay industry.

Shocked Mr Gilbert decided to attend A&E at St Thomas's Hospital, London, where tests confirmed the MP has a condition called Bell's palsy, which can strike overnight.

Bell's palsy is the most common cause of acute facial paralysis and affects up to 24,800 people a year in the UK, and can be prompted by stress or a virus.

Mr Gilbert said: "I said if they didn't think I was going to drop dead I would go as I had work to do."

The hospital agreed Mr Gilbert could leave.

"I then spoke on the clay jobs and we got two big wins," he added

Mr Gilbert reiterated his concerns at the Commons about the danger moves to impose a levy on by-products of the china clay industry will have on jobs. He told Parliament up to 500 jobs in the region could be at risk.

The MP has been told he has a more mild form of the virus, although he admits it has been a bit of a struggle, especially with such an important debate.

Speaking about his recovery, Mr Gilbert said since taking the medication he has already seen an improvement and is hopeful he will be better in weeks rather than months.

"I have been told that it could last up to six months but I am the eternal optimist. I certainly will not allow it to get in the way," he added.

For more on the debate on the china clay industry, see page 33.

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