Hillary B. Smith on Her Real Life Paralysis

Hillary B. Smith (Nora, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) is not one of those actors who scoffs at outlandish soap storylines. She knows that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. “If you sat and looked at my medical record, you’d say, ‘That’s impossible.'” explains Smith. For example? “I’ve been paralyzed in my face from a tumor.”The first one was when I was 19,” she continues. “It was removed at Mass General (in Boston). I was paralyzed on the right side of my face, my eye and my lip, for about three months. They didn’t get it all, and it grew back when I was 23. Mass General wouldn’t touch me because they didn’t want to be responsible for my paralysis, which they said at that point would be permanent.
“I ended up down at Sloan-Kettering (in New York City),” she continues. “It was in my salivary gland, and in my nerves. Eventually, it would have paralyzed me. So they went in and removed it, and my right side of the face was paralyzed for about two months. I couldn’t blink, I had to tape my eyes shut at night because they would dry out. And I just worked it and worked it and worked it. And I actually did the show NURSE [during that time], and I just learned to deaden this side to match this side. That’s how I got through it.”
Funny thing is, it was just what the career doctor ordered. “My career took off. I guess maybe a little deadening helped,” she jokes. “But it was highly dramatic at the time. But you just sit there and go, ‘OK, here we go. Let’s do it.'”
Luckily, everything turned out fine. “It was not cancerous, malignant. The down side of this, really, truly, is that I can never have a face-lift,” she deadpans, “and that’s bumming me out more than anything.”