A simple medical procedure has restored an Ottawa man's sense of taste and smell.

The vacuum like instrument could become the standard of care across the country for chronic sinusitis.

You probably don't think about how important your sense of taste and smell is, until you've lost it.

Hubert Frenette had wondered for years whether he would ever stop to smell the roses again and today he's doing just that.

It may be a bit of a cliché stopping to smell the roses, but when you haven't smelled anything for 9 years, well, Frenette in a flower shop is like a kid in the candy store.

“I'm always sniffing,” he says, standing by the roses inside Scrims Florist in Elgin Street, “because I’m amazed. Even after year and a half, I am still amazed at the smells.”

Frenette developed problems 20 years ago while living and working in New Brunswick.  Severe allergies led to growths in his nose.

It's called "chronic sinusitis with polyps. It happens to about 20% of the population. For some, like Frenette, it can affect their breathing and kill their sense of taste and smell.

“A person that never smells for 9 years and you lose your sense of smell and taste, it's big, it's a big thing,” says Frenette.

Enter Dr. Shaun Kilty. The ear, nose and throat specialist at the Ottawa Hospital developed a novel way to remove nasal polyps in the clinic without surgery using an instrument called a microdebrider.

“The microdebrider is like a vacuum and it slowly removes the polyps,” says Dr. Kilty.  Frenette moved to Ottawa four years ago and was referred to Dr. Kilty by his family physician.  Frenette, along with nine other patients, took part in a pilot study to determine whether the microdebrider alone was as effective as traditional endoscopic sinus surgery. A survey showed that 95% of patients who had undergone the procedure were happy with the results.  There are significant cost savings as well, since the procedure means no operating room and no general anesthetic.

"You're looking at procedure that costs about one-tenth to the health care system of what a regular surgery costs,” says Dr. Kilty.

It took Frenette about seven weeks after the procedure to taste and smell again. It happened while he was strolling down Sparks Street one day with his wife and suddenly realized he could smell someone smoking a cigarette in front of him.  While he’s not fond of the smell of cigarettes, he takes the good with the bad and is amazed at the transformation.

“I walk by Tim Horton’s, and oh, it smells like coffee and then a woman would walk by with perfume and I would say, oh she smells good,” he says as he chuckles.

Dr. Kilty says the polyps will inevitably grow back in 2 years or maybe 20.  In the meantime, though, Frenette is taking advantage of every delicious taste he has missed out on, including an Ottawa special, the Beavertail.

“Oh, that’s good,” he says as he chomps on a Killaloe Sunrise dripping with lemon and sugar.

The results have been so impressive that Dr. Kilty is applying for funding for a national study to see whether this procedure is of equal quality to sinus surgery in an operating room

“If it proves to be,” he says, “then this is the first step to adoption of the procedure across country.”