"Most food tasted like garbage, and I couldn't smell anything," the 54-year-old said.
It was an emotional day for 54-year-old Jennifer Henderson when she first smelled coffee again. She had a distorted sense of taste and smell for two years after contracting COVID. She was one of the few patients who ended up suffering from parosmia and dysgeusia, conditions where the senses of smell and taste are grossly distorted or lost, according to the Cleveland Clinic. “Most foods tasted like garbage, and I couldn’t smell anything,” said Henderson, who lives near Cincinnati, Ohio. “Friends would ask where we wanted to go out for dinner and I’d just shrug my shoulders. It didn’t matter to me. I dreaded eating,” she said.
Jennifer Henderson's sense of smell and taste aren't 100% back to normal after COVID, but she's improving, doctors say. https://t.co/4wufqrf06g— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) April 9, 2023
Most of her symptoms subsided a week after she contracted COVID-19 two years ago. But her smell went from bad to worse nine months later. Garlic and bananas tasted like gasoline and metal while Ranch dressing and peanut butter tasted like chemicals. “It was terrible. Most people don’t understand how that affects you, with two of your major senses gone,” she said. “I would see old pictures of myself and think, ‘I used to be normal then.’ I wondered if I would have to deal with this the rest of my life.”
A woman with long COVID smells coffee for the first time in 2 years in an emotional video: "It was the best smell ever. I just cried like a baby.” https://t.co/HxN6spRqvD— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 6, 2023
A treatment for pain was being offered at the Cleveland Clinic, called stellate ganglion block (SGB) injections, that was being used to improve taste and smell for long COVID patients. It involves delicately injecting temporary local anesthesia into a bundle of nerves on either side of the neck. Cleveland Clinic anesthesiologist and pain medicine specialist, Christina Shin, explained that "there is a connection between our nervous system and immune system" referring to the injection, for which she uses ultrasound to guide the needle into the patient's neck. "Some propose patients with long COVID are suffering from persistent overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system or inflammation of their nervous system. By injecting a local anesthetic and temporarily blocking neuronal activity at the stellate ganglion, we may be disrupting this abnormal feedback loop," she added.
Cincinnati Woman Suffering from Long COVID Can Taste Chocolate Again: 'So Happy to Have My Life Back' https://t.co/mp6xtuYnrG— People (@people) April 7, 2023
Henderson finally decided to try it and after a few rounds, she began tasting her favorite foods again. An emotional video of her from December went viral after she was first able to smell coffee. “I started to cry,” she recalled. “I hadn’t been able to enjoy coffee like that in almost two years.” From when that video was taken, it just kept getting better. “It was the best smell ever,” Henderson told NBC News, per TODAY. “I just cried like a baby.” She's had two more injections since then and has had even more improvements with each one. While Henderson's sense of taste and smell hasn't returned completely, she's grateful for the improvement. "I'm just so happy to have my life back," Henderson shared.
Cover Image Source: YouTube | CBS News