Those who have had COVID-19 face a wide range of potential complications, both while they are sick and long after.
One of the more puzzling effects it can have on people is a loss of smell, which can either be temporary, or last quite some time. For Lyss Stern, it lasted for more than a year. She lost her sense of taste and smell when she got COVID in March 2020, and hasn't gotten those senses back since that time.
"It's very frustrating, but I have to stay positive. I'm a survivor, it could've been a lot worse, so I had to put that into perspective," she told NBC New York. "However, I'm not going to lie to you, it's very frustrating."
Stern said she has hope they will return at some point.
"I do believe that over time, and hopefully with something like where I am today, and with the studies that I'm doing, we will eventually be able — even if it's just a little bit — to get back a little of my smell and taste," she said. "I'll take whatever I can get back."
That faith is why she went to The Scentarium on Thursday, a perfume and fragrance boutique on the Upper East Side. There, she was able to test out different scents to see if she can detect anything.
With the help of owner Sue Phillips, Stern tried out a long list different samples — not trying to figure out the perfect scent, just trying to find any scent whatsoever. At first, lavender didn't prove to do much for her, but then another scent triggered something small: vanilla.
From there, Phillips put together what few fragrances triggered a reaction, and then — a breakthrough. Stern was able to smell a fragrance that she said was "something beautiful. I'm gonna cry."
For Phillips, she said getting to that point made it all worth it for her.
"This for me, this is what I live for," she said.
Afterward, Stern explained what it was like to re-discover her sense of smell.
"I fell very emotional because, not only to smell something, but to smell something that's beautiful, as the first time to really be able to smell something? It's amazing," she said.