BRYAN, Texas — COVID-19 survivors all across the world are suffering from a life-changing condition known as parosmia, in which the sufferer is so sickened by the smell of things around them that they can’t eat or even be around people. After recovering from COVID-19 last year, Nebraska teenager Reagan Springer couldn’t eat anything but protein shakes and ramen, because her body literally rejected all food with taste.
Desperate for answers, the Springer family reached out to other sufferers of parosmia in a Facebook group. Mother Heather Springer took Reagan to all kinds of specialists and pediatricians, with no success in treatment. Reagan struggled to feel well at school and slipped into bouts of depression.
"She complained of foods tasting really foul, smells being so bad that she couldn’t eat," Heather said. "... It got a little bit worse. I mean, she couldn’t sit at the dinner table with us, and she was really isolating herself.”
The Facebook group eventually alerted the Springers to nurse David Gaskin of Republic Pain Specialists, a CRNA located in Bryan who specializes in pain management. Some parosmia sufferers had found great success with Gaskin.
Gaskin explained to KRHD that after the onset of the pandemic, he'd read in a medical journal that the common pain injection known as a stellate ganglion block had shown to cure parosmia patients in Alaska.
"A pain doctor did the injection, and I’m not sure, it doesn’t say in the study whether he did it for pain and it just happened to restore their smell and taste," Gaskin said. "... but I read that and thought – wow. I do that injection all the time for PTSD and chronic regional pain syndrome.”
Over 100 people would eventually travel from as far away as Israel to see Nurse Gaskin in Aggieland once he started using these ultrasound-guided nerve injections. Some had previously needed feeding tubes for nutrition or were unable to hold their newborn babies due to the severity of the parosmia and its effects, which lasted months and months after the COVID-19 infection had subsided.
Gaskin said nearly 90% of his patients have seen significant improvement with the neck injection.
“There’s a large majority of people that are getting stuck in this, what we call a feedback loop of sympathetic input, immune response," Gaskin said. "... This stellate ganglion block is just that – we're blocking sympathetic input to the brain and trying to stop and block that feedback loop.”
One of those success stories is now Reagan Springer, who traveled to Bryan in February and received the injections. Now, she can eat most foods again. It was a tearful moment, when, just five minutes after receiving the neck injection, Reagan could put a snack in her mouth.
“I was relieved that it worked because it’s been so long," Reagan told KRHD. "And it was weird because I had the chips that I’d first tasted parosmia with, and the first thing I had got afterwards. So it was really weird, I was like – oh, that's what that had tasted like! I had forgotten what food tasted like.”
Nurse Gaskin and the Springers hope that more pain specialists will begin to use this treatment for the parosmia diagnosis. Most insurance doesn’t cover this experimental application yet, but Gaskin said he’s willing to work with patients of varying income levels. The shots often cost less than $1,000 upfront, according to Gaskin and the Springers.
To learn more about Gaskin's practice, visit the following link:
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