About twenty years ago, when he was still working in a stressful management role, my husband was diagnosed with hypertension. It was first picked up by his optician when he went for a routine eye test.
Over the years, he religiously took his prescribed two aspirins a day, to ward off the risk of a stroke and various medications to counteract the high blood pressure. These were changed from time to time to offset the side effects, like severe pains in the legs.
When we retired, we sailed away for six years to fulfil our dream.
We managed to live on a thirty eight foot boat for all that time without ever a cross word. We were (and indeed still are) a good team.
Inevitably in a confined space, one is always aware of what is going on, and with my own keen sense of smell I was always able to spot oil, gas or diesel leaks, or electrical overheating, or food that might be past its safe to eat by date, (you can’t afford to have food poisoning when you have a boat to sail).
It was only when we came home and had more space to play with that certain things became apparent. For example, I once left a pan on the stove for too long on too high a heat, and went upstairs and became side-tracked . Although Dave was nearby, he failed to notice the strong smell of burning which eventually found me running downstairs to rescue our dinner. I thought little more about it, but similar things happened on other occasions too. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t notice that anything was amiss.
Then, when we started working at Llys Nini Animal Centre, as volunteer ambulance drivers, ferrying various animals to and from the vet for treatment, it was the ferrets that provided the clue to the problem.
Now ferrets are delightful little animals which can make very lively and
interesting pets. The only trouble is that they can emit an extremely strong
odour. It is not dissimilar to the overpoweringly sweet smell you notice if
you ever drive past a field of rape seed in summer when it is in full bloom,
with the car windows open. Personally, I find it overpowering and unpleasant
to the point of nausea. Even if I climb into a vehicle which has carried a
ferret one or two days earlier, the distinct odour lingers and gives me a
headache and I have to open all the windows…. The smell can be particularly
strong in un-neutered male ferrets
However, Dave is absolutely immune to the scent!
Slowly it dawned on me that he had lost his sense of smell completely!
I was, however surprised that I had not picked up clues earlier. However, he
often says I smell nice when he gives me a hug. He always says the dinner
smells good when I am cooking. He remarks on the clean smell in the
bathroom. He breaths deeply and says how good creosote smells if we pass
a newly painted fence ….. yet he never notices things that are unexpected,
like the burning dinner …. or those ferrets!
All this time he has been half believing he could still smell, and half not
wanting to admit that it had gone.
At about the same time as we realised that something had affected this
important sense, Dave was experiencing more of the leg pains and tiredness ,
recognised possible side effects associated with the hypertension
medication, along with the newly discovered ( by me, at least) a loss of smell!
A visit to the doctor at this time also confirmed that the high blood
pressure had reduced greatly (hooray!) so, under medical supervision, he is
now experimenting with a period where he has stopped the tablets (whilst
continuing with the aspirins) and his BP is being monitored regularly.
Imagine our delight therefore when the other day, he remarked that he
could smell my perfume for the first time in years. Then, today, he could
recognise the beautiful fragrance of a hyacinth in the garden!
Also last week he knew the dinner was almost ready as he smelled it when he
was working outside the house, via the extractor fan in the kitchen wall.
Every new recognition of a scent is an achievement to be celebrated. It is
only when you have lost something so important and life enhancing that you
can really begin to appreciate its unexpected return.