On December 24th, 2020, I tested positive for Covid-19 while nine months pregnant. My first response was panic: would I survive the illness? Would my baby become infected? After reassurance from my obstetrician, and four days of relatively mild symptoms, I began to feel relief. I’d made it through Covid-19, and my baby would be okay; many others were not as lucky. But, a week later, my sense of smell still hadn’t returned…
By spring 2020, it still wasn’t back. I couldn’t smell the roses blooming in our garden, or the cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. I couldn’t smell my husband’s coffee in the morning, or the smoke when I accidentally left the toaster oven on too long. Worst of all, I couldn’t smell my new sweet baby. Then, like a light switch, I started to regain my sense of smell. But, all I could smell – and taste – was sewage. I had developed a condition called Parosmia. Literally everything and everyone around me started to smell like wet sewage.
Before the pandemic, many of us were unaware of smell and taste disorders like Anosmia and Parosmia. And even as more stories have emerged from Covid-19, many still dismiss these issues as mild. The fact is, you don’t realize how much your life revolves around smell and taste, until you lose those senses. Every day becomes a game of trial-and-error, and the challenges can be surprising. I could not brush my teeth with my minted toothpaste, wash my hair with my shampoo and conditioner or wear my favorite perfume. Some days, the smells and tastes were so horrible that I was physically nauseous and needed to lay in bed.
But beyond the obvious symptoms, smell and taste disorders also impact our emotions and social lives. My experience affected my intimacy with my husband, my desire to hang out with friends and attend social events, and my ability to shop and cook for my family. I found myself retreating, because no one could understand. I became afraid of losing memories that are triggered by smell and taste. I thought I was going insane.
Luckily, I was not entirely alone. In April of 2021, I connected with one of the world’s leading physicians in smell and taste at UC San Diego Medical Center, right around the corner from my home. Having my Parosmia and Anosmia acknowledged and diagnosed by someone in the medical community helped me feel validated and understood. Finally, I could smell a whiff of hope. I want SMELP to be that beacon of hope for you – your path to relief and understanding. That’s why we’re not only providing you the treatment tools to utilize along your smell and taste journey, but to also help you navigate conversations with family, friends and employers. Your struggle is real, but you are not alone!
In addition to being a mom of two, I have worked in healthcare for over a decade, specializing in helping hospitals improve patient outcomes and experiences. With a masters degree in Health Regulation and Law from UCSD, I have seen the healthcare systems from both sides, and am currently attending UCLA’s certification program in Patient Advocacy. I want every patient to feel empowered, validated, and heard, because I know firsthand what it’s like to feel alone. That’s why I created SMELP.
A portion of our proceeds is donated to the Smell and Taste Loss and Distortion Research Foundation led by the Division of Otolaryngology at University of California San Diego (UCSD). UCSD’s Division of Otolaryngology researchers were the first to report findings that associated smell and taste loss with COVID-19 in April 2020. This Foundation supports basic, translational and clinical research on the loss of smell and taste and the distortion of smell and taste due to Covid-19 and other causes.