Radiographer Kelly Fidoe White from Oldham has a rare metabolic condition with a very odd symptom.
She is suffering from Trimethylaminuria or ‘fish odour syndrome’ which means that her body is unable to break down certain compounds in food that contain a substance called choline.
As a result of not being able to break these down, the body disposes of these compounds through sweat, urine and breath – creating a strong odour that can resemble onions, rotten fish and even faeces.
At one stage Kelly was showering up to 4 times a day, changing her uniform twice and even using entire cans of deodorant – but she still had a pungent odour.
The condition affects Kelly on a daily basis, and started when she was at school. Because of her unusual scent, Kelly was badly bullied.
She explains, ‘There was more than one occasion where I’d say, ‘I’ve had fish paste sandwiches for my lunch’ when kids would say, ‘you smell of fish.’ That was quite difficult to deal with as a teenager.’
Desperate, Kelly tried everything she could to mask the smell, before finally diagnosing herself after watching documentaries.
She says, ‘as far as I know this condition effects 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.’
‘From watching documentaries about it things just started to fall into place.’
‘Ultimately I ended up being tested and it came back positive.’
Even after she was diagnosed, there was no miracle cure for Kelly, and she currently takes a cocktail of drugs in an attempt to keep the odour at bay.
Because of the huge social anxiety her scent causes her, Kelly took a job working nights to limit the amount of people she is exposed to. But it’s not been easy.
Her colleague Faysal Bashir explains, ‘you could trace Kelly’s smell up the corridor.’
‘I’ve had many complaints about Kelly’s smell to me from a variety of staff within the department. It’s hard when you get these complaints as Kelly is a good friend.’
Luckily, finding love with her now husband Michael has given Kelly a much-needed confidence boost.
She gushes, ‘Michael has helped me to cope by making me see the funny side of the condition.’
Michael adds, ‘I didn’t really notice her smell straight away when we first started seeing each other.’
‘Kelly’s confidence has definitely improved over the years. She still doubts herself a little bit every now and again.’
Kelly quips, ‘I’m sure he won’t mind me saying this but he produces his own smells anyway!’
Now, Kelly is confident enough to be completely open with friends, colleagues and patients about her condition.
‘I am 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,’ she says.
By speaking out about her condition, Kelly hopes that she will inspire other people to feel more comfortable and happy in their own skin.
Michael says, ‘I’m very proud of the way she copes with the condition. I’m very proud of her as a person full stop.’
Here’s to a happy and healthy future for Kelly!