When I first heard McKell’s story I was in tears. She is such a strong person and wise beyond her years. It is obvious where she found her strength, her great grandfather. I asked McKell if she had an ancestor who has impacted her or shown her strength. Her answer was perfect. Yes! My great grandfather, Phillip Foremaster, has inspired me a lot. When he was serving an LDS church mission in Mexico, his parents were struggling financially and wanted him to come home. His reply was that he could not come home, because he had to “do something of worth.” He went on to baptize many people, served diligently, and was even asked to extend his two-year mission to three years in order to open up a new area. He was an incredible example of perseverance and dedication to his faith. Whenever I am struggling to keep going or feel stuck in a rut, I remember that I too need to serve others and do something of worth with my life. I keep his words framed above my door so that each day I can remember to ‘do something of worth.’”

 McKell shares her story of pain, faith and triumph, I really wanted you to hear her story in her own words…

Where do I even begin? My name is McKell Quilter Wilson, I’m 23 years old, and I was born and raised in a small town in southern Utah called Hurricane. My parents have always been my closest friends, and I have 2 older siblings: my half brother Weston, who passed away unexpectedly when I was 3 years old, and my sister Lindsay. Losing my brother caused my family to forge a really close-knit relationship between us all, and I really began to ponder and reflect on the value of fully living life every day from a young age. My childhood and teenage years were filled with activities I loved: from violin to volleyball, piano and photography, I had a lot going on and loved it fiercely. My senior year of high school, I developed a heart condition called postural tachycardia, which forced me to find my identity beyond the volleyball girl. I had to peel down each layer of who I thought I was to find the core of who I really am. Losing a huge part of my life was a huge learning experience in my life, and ended up being an immense blessing to have already gone through when I got Bell’s Palsy years later, which I will talk about shortly. I married my wonderful husband, Jake, at the young age of 19, and together we have our year old son,

My pregnancy with Rad was brutal; but the most life altering part of the pregnancy was when I developed Bell’s Palsy at 9 months pregnant. If you don’t know what Bell’s Palsy is, it is the paralysis of the facial nerve. So, I went from being completely normal and fully functioning, to waking up on my 2 year wedding anniversary with half of my face completely paralyzed. No sight out of my left eye, no hearing out of the ear, and no ability to move or control that entire side of my face. I was mortified, and didn’t know how to handle the experience of looking in the mirror and feeling completely unrecognizable. My world as I knew it was gone, and I was bitter, angry, and devastated.

Bell’s Palsy completely changed who I am as a person. I went through some pretty dark days; days where I couldn't see any worth in myself, days when I dreaded looking in the mirror because I despised what I saw. There were moments of absolute agony, but there have also been moments of self-realization and triumph. It has been difficult for me to put this experience into words, but it's an experience I can already look back on with gratitude for the chance Heavenly Father has given me to
learn and grow.

The start of my life with Bell’s Palsy was so emotionally draining, and I soon began to lose hope. My head was filled with all the dark, ugly thoughts imaginable. I was so filled with fear and self hatred. I worried that my face would never heal. I worried that my husband would stop loving me. I was afraid that the first time my son saw me when he was born he would be scared of how I look. That he wouldn't see beauty or happiness but rather a stone cold face that could only move in disfigured ways, that his mom would be ugly to him. I feared I would never be able to smile again, that my son would never see me smile. I especially feared that I would never even feel like trying to smile again. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my face. I hid my face as much as possible and my quality of life continued to go down.

The day came when my son was born, and though things were slightly improving, my face still hadn't returned to normal. He was so beautiful and I wanted so desperately to see him clearly instead of through blurred vision. When the nurse took him to the NICU and told me something was wrong with his heart, I felt I had no more strength within me at all. Anything that was holding me together at that point was shattered. This was the first time in my life that I really had the "Why Me" argument with my Heavenly Father. I was so angry that He hadn't healed my face. I was so angry that I didn't get to have the birth experience I wanted. I was so scared for my baby. I was bitter and broken. This wasn't what I had pictured for my life.

Those days and nights in the hospital were so raw and draining. I had nowhere to turn except back to God. I felt so sorrowful I knew the only way to survive was to start praying - to start desperately praying. I pleaded with the Lord to help me see things as they really are, to feel joy again, to feel whole again. I quit asking Him to fix my face or to fix my problems, and started asking for insight and peace instead. And soon enough, I started to feel a change within myself.

I remember at one point getting out of the hospital bed around 3 AM to go see my baby in the NICU and passing by a mirror, and for the first time in a long time I didn't hate what I saw. Because instead of seeing an ugly face that couldn't smile, I saw a mom who loved her son more than anything and was doing her best to care for him. It began to matter less to me what I looked like and mattered more what I felt like and who I was as a person. It mattered more that I was becoming closer to my Heavenly Father than the fact that I couldn't physically smile. Because even though I couldn't express my emotions through my face, I could still verbally convey my feelings and have joy.

Soon enough, we were able to bring our Conrad James home and life started to calm down a bit. Gradually, I cared less about how I looked and cared more about how I acted. Instead of feeling bitterness for not looking the way I wanted, I began to appreciate my body for its ability to start functioning again. I realized that I had taken my smile for granted until I physically could not smile anymore. I never appreciated my body or my smile until I got Bell's Palsy. I never appreciated the ability to express my emotions through my face alone. I never appreciated being able to eat and drink with ease. I never appreciated my hearing or my sight. It took losing the ability to do those things for me to truly appreciate my body and what it can do.

And as I've worked hard to move past this trial, I'm happier. My life is more full. And I have gained such a deeper perspective about the reality that we are so much more than what we look like. That people don't love us for how we look, but that they see beyond the crooked smile and the tired eyes. They see us for who we are and for who we can become.

I am not the person I was the day I lost my smile. I am better, and refined, and learning, and a work in progress. But most importantly, I'm happy. I'm happy where I'm at, right this very second. I'm more open, and honest, and more accepting of help. I'm more comfortable with who I am and how I look.

I may have never fully healed from Bell’s Palsy, but I am happy. I am whole. I am a better person than I was. Bell's Palsy was my blessing in disguise. The goodness hidden by the ugly. Nearly two years ago I lost my smile, and because of that, I have never been happier.

I’m so grateful and am changed after hearing McKell’s story. I asked McKell if she could tell her children, grandchildren and descendants anything what would it be? She answered, I would tell them to seek joy in every moment and to spread joy every chance they get. The world needs your light - don’t be afraid to do whatever your “something of worth” is.”