Cate’s story:

Taking steps to feel safe and supported

A photo of Cate

Cate Maiolini is 46 and lives in Hemel Hempstead with her housemate, Jose.

Cate was home alone one afternoon. As she was studying an online course at the time, Cate was working in the office upstairs, while simultaneously cooking her dinner on the gas hob in her kitchen downstairs. Cate nipped back and forth between the two rooms to check on her dinner every few minutes.

At one point when Cate was upstairs, the water from her dinner boiled over and put out the flame beneath it – but the gas continued to leak into the kitchen.

After contracting Covid-19 in 2020, Cate – like many people – had lost her sense of smell. Since then, Cate has been living with long Covid, which – as she discovered on this day – has changed the way she lives forever.

Luckily, Cate’s housemate Jose arrived home shortly after and immediately smelled that the room was full of gas. Realising that Cate couldn’t smell the danger, Jose started to open all the windows and switched off the gas.

“At first, I didn’t even think of the danger,” Cate explains. “I was in shock as I helped my housemate open all the windows. As soon as I calmed down, I thought, wow, this could have ended badly. Because I couldn’t smell the gas, I would have gone back downstairs and tried to relight the hob flame. I don’t know what would have happened if I had.

“I started to freak out as I thought about how something really bad could have happened – the house could have exploded! We live in a terraced house between two others, so I thought about how this could have harmed my neighbours too. It was terrifying.”


“I didn’t realise there was a gas leak in my kitchen. I would have relit the flame on the hob – and it would have been fatal!”

Cate admits she has never really thought about the implications – and dangers – that come with losing your sense of smell. “After the kitchen incident, I realised that, although my doctors knew about my smell loss, they had never really told me how this could affect my life, or the extra things I’d have to consider,” Cate explains. “I’ve never received any advice to be more vigilant when cooking with gas, or to be more aware that I can’t smell burning.

“I also realised that I need to be aware of so many things, such as personal hygiene, house hygiene, food hygiene, hazards in workplaces – everything. I ask those around me to tell me if anything smells off, because I can’t smell when it does. But I’d never really thought about the danger that comes with that.”

Luckily for Cate, she had already heard about a UK charity called Fifth Sense, which was set up for people affected by smell and taste disorders. “I contacted Fifth Sense because I had met the founder, Duncan, a few years ago, and he’d explained what the charity does. So, after the kitchen incident, I got in touch with them and explained my situation because I thought, if anyone really understands what I am going through, it’s them!

“Duncan kindly gave me some information that I found very helpful – the safety tips and the resources available on the Fifth Sense website were very useful.

“I travel a lot for work, so if I go somewhere and they don’t have a natural gas alarm, I’m now worried something like this could happen again. I would love to have a portable gas detector to take with me everywhere I go.

“Losing your sense of smell can be frightening and hard. Before contacting Fifth Sense, I wasn’t offered any advice or help. My hope for the future is that anyone who suffers from a loss of smell can get more guidance, either from their doctors or other reliable sources. Charities such as Fifth Sense really help to provide support with things that we once took for granted.”

Further reading:

About the PSR

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service, designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. 

If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help you to access the best possible services at all times and to feel safe and independent at home. 

This website stores cookies on your computer. Read our Cookie and Privacy Policy