Coffee Aroma Made Her Cry, for Good Reason

Ohio woman who had COVID has sense of smell restored at Cleveland Clinic
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2023 2:11 PM CDT

Lots of people love the smell of coffee. Few have been as overjoyed with it as Ohio's Jennifer Henderson, and for good reason. A video released by the Cleveland Clinic shows the 54-year-old bursting into tears as she is handed a cup and is able to detect the aroma, reports KFOR. Henderson lost her ability to taste and smell two years ago thanks to COVID, and both senses appear to have been restored after a novel treatment at the clinic. As NBC News explains, the treatment is called a stellate ganglion block, or SGB. Doctors inject "a temporary, local anesthetic—like what a dentist would give before filling a cavity—and injects it into a specific bundle of nerves called the stellate ganglion on both sides of a person's neck."

For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the treatment works, at least for some patients with long COVID. In a news release, the clinic's Dr. Christina Shin offers a possible explanation:

  • "There is a connection between our nervous system and immune system. Some propose patients with long COVID are suffering from persistent overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system or inflammation of their nervous system. By injecting local anesthetic and temporarily blocking neuronal activity at the stellate ganglion, we may be disrupting this abnormal feedback loop."

Shin has used an SGB on about 30 long COVID patients, and she says about half have shown improvement to some degree, per NBC. Patients with the most dramatic recoveries, such as Henderson, tend to garner the most attention, which may prevent a skewed view of success. "Given the lack of data suggesting efficacy, it's really hard to advocate for this for patients who have a problem that typically resolves with time," says Dr. Justin Turner of Vanderbilt University. Henderson's take: "I'm just so happy to have my life back." (More long COVID stories.)

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