Caterer overcomes rare disease that destroyed sense of smell - New York News

Caterer overcomes rare disease that destroyed sense of smell

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - A valley chef overcame a rare flesh and bone eating virus that destroyed her smell and even her taste, for some time.

"I'm a caterer that can't smell and I have no palate," said Sue Carlisle, of Straight to Plate catering.

Seven years ago, caterer Sue Carlisle developed a serious infection in her cheek after having sinus surgery.

"It became this rare bone-eating, flesh-eating infection called mucormycosis," said Carlisle. "It was like something out of a science fiction movie."

Carlisle underwent 30 surgeries in 45 days.

"With mucormycosis , usually people die within the first 48 hours," said Carlisle. "Because it spreads so quickly, they literally cut off half your face."

She lost her upper gums, teeth and palate, along with her sense of smell and taste.

"I was very fortunate to have a wonderful team of doctors that created not only a prosthetic for me that's like a denture, but it's extra heavy because it has a palate attached to it, so they came up with the idea of attaching non-toxic, non-corrosive magnets," said Carlisle.

The Centers for Disease Control say this is a rare virus that affects about two in a million people, but many die from it.

"My doctors and my husband, friends and family, no one let me know how sick I was. It really wasn't until later on mucormycosis saw an article. They quoted my doctor and that it was .00082 percent per million that survive this," said Carlisle.

Carlisle had her last surgery three years ago.

She and her husband started a catering business in Mesa called Straight to the Plate.

They came up with their first recipes in 2008, using their friends as tasters.

The business is growing. Carlisle caters weddings, corporate events and has picked up numerous awards.

While her taste came back three years ago, she still can't smell, so they have safeguards in place.

"We always have someone in the kitchen when we use proteins, dairy, anything fresh because they may look great to me, they may pass the touch test, but I can't smell it. I always have someone in the kitchen to smell things," said Carlisle.

"I was very fortunate, lucky that I was able to survive," said Carlisle.

The flesh and bone eating infection is not contagious.

Carlisle says now that the infection is gone, there is no greater chance that it will come back.
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