Wednesday, September 21, 2005

unexpected changes

I am sitting on the plush beige armchair in the living room of my mom’s house right now. It just finished raining outside, the light is dim and there is a thick brush of humidity hanging heavily around my already frizzy hair. A cool breeze slowly wraps itself around my shoulders, sneaking in through the screen door behind me. My computer is balanced lightly on my thighs. And I don’t really know what to write.

The past three weeks have been jarring – to my body, my mind, my family and friends, my future. I don’t remember the accident (luckily, I think) at all. I don’t remember the days in the hospital or even the first days of being home. I vaguely remember seeing some old friends come to visit, bursting into tears. I have hazy images of flowers and balloons, bottles of vibrantly colored pills and extremely awkwardly used metal crutches. A combination of switching my pain medication and the beginning slow process of healing a skull fracture restored my mind, my memory and lucidity. I couldn’t read or write until about a week ago, dizzy and confused. But I am now just beginning to process what has happened. I am just now beginning to fully understand and appreciate how wonderful my friends and family have been to me. It has hit me like a bolt of lightning how unbelievably lucky I am. I will be 100% better in time. I go into surgery tomorrow for my left knee. After that it is simply a long road to recovery. I am scared. But I am also happy that I am here, that I am alright and that things will certainly be ok.

The hardest thing for me at the moment, however, has nothing to do with my bones. I am more than willing to put in the effort to recover from a broken knee, pelvis, skull. They will be fine. I am terrified because of one of the effects of the skull fracture -

I have lost my sense of smell.

There was a bruising on my brain in the front, right behind my forehead, where the neurons for the sense of smell reside. The doctors are hopeful; I am keeping every possible aspect of my body crossed. No one knows if it will return. There is a possibility that it will, brains simply take a bit of time to heal and rewire. My smell could pop right back in within a month, two months, even a year. There is also the possibility that the ligaments connecting my smell neurons to my nose were broken completely; I will never smell again. And without smell, taste is a mere invisible possibility. Salt, sweet, bitter and sour are fine. But there is nothing else. Texture and temperature is all I have right now. France is already a non-possibility. Culinary school is now on precarious balance. If I can’t taste, how will my life involve food?

So I am at home now, looking outside at the slowly growing sunshine, wondering (perhaps too worriedly) where I am going. I am confused about the speed in which things change. I am confused about what I am going to do with myself. For now, though, I am going to concentrate on healing and coming back to be the Molly that I have missed. I am well on my way and I am positive this will be an experience that will give a meaningful shape to my life. Until then, I will spend my time with my friends, my family, sniffing everything possible (practice will makes perfect), and writing. I will certainly continue to update My Madeleine. A passion for cooking and food is certainly not taken away by a smell-stealing accident. With full hope that all my senses will soon be back to normal, this will be a striking experience. It will be a short-term entrance into a strange world hardly desired by someone so in love with eating. But it is one that will heighten my other senses - the visual, temperature, texture, atmosphere. I am beginning to look at what I love in a new way. There are many unexpected changes.

16 comments:

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Melissa said...

Hi Molly, I'm so glad to hear that you're on the road to recovery - it was a shock to everyone who reads your blog to hear that you had been in such a terrible accident. I'm sending lots of healing thoughts your way for the broken bones and the damaged smell receptors. I can only imagine how frightening it must be to lose your ability to relate to food, but the body has amazing powers to repair itself and I'm confident you'll soon be 100% better (and back on track chasing your culinary school dreams!). Have a speedy and restful recovery and take care!

s'kat said...

It's good to hear from you again, Molly. I can only imagine what it must be like, teetering on the edge of such an uncertainty. Trying times.

The body is an amazing thing, and I think you may just suprise yourself at what it can do when necessary.

Stay strong, and work on getting stronger.

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Molly said...

Oh Molly, I just happened back here today, wondering what had become of you, and I'm so, so sorry to hear of all you've gone through in the past month. I can't even imagine how precarious everything must feel to you right now, and how hard it must be to even begin to wrap your mind around all these unexpected--and painful--changes. I'll be thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Hello Molly.... I am sorry to hear of your accident and I hope that all is well with you at this time in your life. I also wanted to say that I know what it is like not to be able to smell, for I too have loss my sense of smell and I am hopeful that one day out of the blue it will return to me. My friends and family don't understand that this is a truly tramatic thing to have happen to you, you have dreams of cooking and I cant live without food!!! In a nutshell I adore it, and to not have my tastebuds at 100% takes all of the joy that I have for food away,but I am hopeful that it one day too will return!! I hope you have a speedy recovery and will pray for our smells to pop through our noses again!!!!!!
Dionne, Atlanta

Anonymous said...

Hi Molly. I too had an accident back in 1991. I was riding my bike and got hit by a truck that didn't stop at the stop sign. I flew and hit the back of my head on the cement. I fractured my skull and after 4 days in the hospital realized I couldn't smell when my mom brought me pizza soup from the cafeteria that she said just smelled really good. It is 2007, and I still cannot smell. I can kind of smell if that makes sense; like my nose is haywire a bit. Or maybe it is the sensation and taste of things. Like stinky stuff and I can tell if something is floral sometimes. But food is quite plain. I have gotten used to it I guess. At first toast tasted like a wet sponge, ice tea like pure sugar. I can pick up the sour, sweet, salt, bitter now so it helps. The chance of getting your smell back gets slimmer the longer it takes. I think after a year it probabaly won't come back. I would rather have my smell back than the money from the accident any day. Your sense of smell creates images in your mind, sensations, feelings, memories. It is connected in so many ways to you. It is more than just smell. And I've lost that. That is the hardest part. Not being able to smell my baby; clean baby smell, pizza cooking, fresh bread baking, flowers, etc. Another scary thing is a gas leak years ago in our house I could not detect till my parents came home. But I guess you can say there are some good things to losing my smell, I can eat things I couldn't eat before and eat less of some things. I eat less sweet stuff, I can now eat some more 'healthy food choices' I couldn't stand before, like yogurt, tofu, soya beans, etc. You need to look at the bright side any way. The loss of smell is actually quite common. I know many people who can't smell from a head injury or accident, or were even born that way. Anyways, cheers, good luck with your nose.
liza

Anonymous said...

Hello Molly, I am one of the 2 million Americans that cannot smell. I was born that way and have never had the pleasure of smelling baked cookies or the discomfort of smelling a skunk. I discovered my lack of smell at a young age. As a girl scout I was subjected to a smelling test to earn my "Five Senses" badge. I failed miserably and from that moment on I realized I was different. As a "non-smeller" I have the constant disadvantage of not knowing whether or not I smell, or if something has caught fire. I have also been known to eat spoiled food or drink sour milk and not realize it until it's too late. Other than the occasional cup of "bad" hot chocolate, I live a normal life. I realize that it must be tramatic for you, but I want you to know that your smell does not make you who you are. your life will go on and if you get your sense of smell back that's fantastic, but if you don't you'll be o.k. I promise!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I wanted to thank you for the last post. I just got out of hospital two days ago with a skull fracture and realised I couldn't smell either. Frantically, I googled everything I could and your blog made me feel the most human. We're not alone in this...I'm going to stay positive. People do say it does return :)

Michael said...

I recently suffered a traumatic head injury, and I'm happy to say that I've been recovering well. My headaches are almost gone and I can function completely normally. Or so I thought. It's been just over two weeks and just the other day I realized that I've completely lost my sense of smell. It's devastating. Definitely one of those things you don't really appreciate until it's gone. My love for food and cooking is shattered. It's so depressing because you WANT things to smell. You pick up anything; pizza, flowers, even dirt..and you expect a smell. It's a huge quality of life issue. Anyway, you're not alone out there. There are reports of people like us regaining their sense of smell. So that's what we've got. All we can do is hope and hang in there. I wish you the best of luck during this senseless time.

Shorty said...

Molly, thank you for your blog. I lost my sense of smell and just got back from the Doctor (my fourth doctor in fact). Reading your blog actually made me stop crying and smile. Thank you, sorry that you had an accident, but it's good you're on the road to recovery. I miss the smell of the ocean, food and the taste of a great glass of wine. My prayers and good wishes to a quick recovery are with you. If you hear of any cures, please let me know.

Anonymous said...

Hi Molly, its been just about two weeks since I had surgery. Although, I wasn't in an accident, I had an abdominal wall mass removed. After I could get my head somewhat together (about a week), I noticed I had no smell and taste. I understand what you are going through and I hope that this is not a long term side effect for me. I plan to speak with my doctor tomorrow. I wish you all the best, I have been through many turbulent times and it's amazing how we learn to cope and realize somehow the mind and body can take a lot of punishment, but your spirit will get you through. Good luck to you.

Sarah said...

I recently lost my sense of smell after a head injury. It has been a week and I am still recovering brain wise and memory wise. Everything you described about not remembering the days around your accident...the friends faces being a blur...the dizziness. I relate to it all. Thank you for sharing your story, though I know it was hard. I am also a chef and for me the biggest blow is the loss of my sense of smell. I am curious if you have gotten your back yet? I hope and pray you will.

Marilynne said...

I'm so glad to know you're getting better - before I heard of your accident. I hope your sense of smell does come back to you. Your sense of writing is doing just fine. Keep it up.

Bigbird said...

I had head injury two weeks ago. Migraines now subsided. Realised I lost my sense of smell. Thought it was to do with head trauma but reading about it technically sounds quite scary if permanent disruption to nerves. My GP told me I had hayfever - in Feb!!! onwards and upwards so people say.