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The Woman Who Constantly Smells Of Fish

August 23, 2019


FAYSAL BASHIR: She usually smells sort of quite oniony. It’s quite a strong smell.
For some reason I thought it was called ‘fishiyatitus.’ COMM: Radiographer Kelly Fidoe-White has an unusual metabolic condition with a rather
unpleasant symptom. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: The main scientific name for it is Trimethylaminuria. It’s also known
as Fish Odour Syndrome. COMM: The condition affects her on a daily basis and it first become apparent when she
was at school. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: There was more than one occasion where I would say “Oh, I’ve had
fish paste sandwiches for my lunch.” When kids would say, “Oh, you smell of fish”.
That was quite difficult to deal with as a teenager. SANDRA FIDOE: The fact that she was bullied about it made it ten times worse, I think,
for her and certainly for me, it bothered me. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: I was spending a stupid amount of time in the shower. Red hot water,
scrubbing until my skin was bright red. COMM: Kelly’s condition, shorten to TMAU, isn’t caused by poor hygiene. Her body is
unable to break down a compound found in food that contains a substance called Choline,
meaning a lot of ingredients are off the menu. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: One of the things that they say to you is, “If it smells going
in, it’s going to smell coming out.” So, things like fish, seafood are all triggers. COMM: The body disposes of the compound in sweat, breadth and urine, emitting a pungent
odour that can resemble rotten fish, onion and faecal matter. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: As far as I know, this condition affects between 300 and 600 people
worldwide. It’s not a very well known condition at all. A lot of GPs have never even heard
of it. COMM: In fact, Kelly diagnosed herself. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: From watching documentaries about it, things just started to fall into
place. It was like, “That sounds like it could be me”, and ultimately I ended up
being tested and it came back positive. There is no magic pill that you can take to make
it better. I personally take a cocktail of medications. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: That’s the pills that I take. We don’t know whether they work
or not, but I try and keep on top of it as best as I can. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: There is very few other symptoms at all, but of course you’ve got the side effects of anxiety, social isolation, it’s hard. COMM: To limit the amount of people she is exposed to, Kelly took a job working nights,
but it’s not been easy. FAYSAL BASHIR: You could trace Kelly’s smell up the corridor. ASHA FEROZ: Certain people had made comments. What was upsetting was how people were dealing
with it and at that point she was, she wasn’t herself. FAYSAL BASHIR: I have had many complaints about Kelly’s smell to me form variety of
staff within the department. It’s hard when you get these complaints as Kelly is a good friend. COMM: Finding love gave her a much needed confidence boost. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: Michael has helped me to cope by making me see the funny side of the
condition. MICHAEL FIDOE-WHITE: I didn’t really noticed her smell straight away, when we first started
seeing each other. I don’t believe she tried to hide it. Kelly’s confidence has definitely
improved over the years. She still doubts herself a little bit now and again, you know.
I think the best way of me helping Kelly with the condition is to be supportive about the condition. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this but he is, you know, he produces
his own smells anyway. COMM: Kelly is now open with friends, colleagues and patients. KELLY FIDOE-WHITE: I’m more chilled out about it now. I can’t say that if somebody
complained tomorrow, I wouldn’t still find it a little bit cutting. But I deal with it
by educating that person now. COMM: Feeling confident enough to speak out about her condition, Kelly hopes she will
inspire others to feel comfortable in their own skin. SANDRA FIDOE: She is compassionate, she is hardworking, she is innovative really in her
job and her home life, I think. MICHAEL FIDOE-WHITE: I’m very proud in the way she copes with her condition. I’m very
proud of her as a person, full stop.

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