Jennifer Henderson has battled the miserable condition since 2021, and although she recovered relatively quickly from her initial COVID symptoms, her taste and smell never returned to normal.
“Devastating. I would look at pictures of myself and think, ‘I’m never going to be the same,'” said Henderson. “I was normal then and I thought, ‘I’m never going to get this back. This is going to be my life, the rest of my life.'”
Henderson loves to cook, but the condition robbed her of that passion, when food began to taste like garbage, making her sick to her stomach.
“Peanut butter tasted like chemicals; popcorn; dark colas; garlic tasted like gasoline,” she said. “I remember being at a restaurant with my husband and another couple. He had me try something and I was panicking because I could feel the tears welling up. I’m at a restaurant, I’m at a table, and I’ve got to get this out of my mouth.”
Henderson, who lives near Cincinnati, never stopped searching for answers and found help in a social media support group where she learned about treatment that could help.
The Cleveland Clinic offers a common treatment called stellate ganglion block for pain management, now being used to help some long COVID patients.
The hospital reported success in treating some long COVID patients since April 2022, however experts advise more research is needed to understand how effective the injections are for patients in the long-term.
Henderson said she received six injections and her senses improved shortly after. Immediately after her first procedure, a video taken at the hospital shows Henderson crying because she could finally smell a cup of coffee.
“I’m at about 85%,” Henderson said. “There are still some things that are a little bit off, but nothing like I was. I feel like I’ve got my life back.”
After surviving for years on the only foods she could stomach — including yogurt, oranges, berries and some seafood — Henderson said she could not wait to eat peanut butter, which tasted just as good as she remembered.