The sommelier who couldn’t smell

A story I recently told was one of amazing technological advancement, medical skill and patient bravery. Queenslander Steph Garland was a wine sommelier when she began suffering persistent and debilitating epileptic episodes – not full-blown fits, just enough to leave her feeling like she’d been hit by a truck, had lost some memory and, worst of all, with altered senses of taste and smell, which are kind of important tools if your job is to professionally smell and taste wine.

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A healthier Steph today (Pic: The Florey)

Steph ended up at Melbourne’s Florey Institute for Neurosciences and Professor Graeme Jackson led a team that eventually performed incredibly detailed scans of the affected part of Steph’s brain, isolating where the epilepsy was originating, and then operated twice, removing the smallest possible segment of brain so that Steph would suffer the least possible longterm consequences.

These days, she’s no longer a sommelier but she is married with a baby and loving life.

I didn’t know much about epilepsy before talking to Steph, and Graeme, but it turns out more than 250,000 Australians are currently living with epilepsy and more than 65 million people worldwide.

I was commissioned to write the story as a letter for the Florey to send to donors to the institute, letting them know how their donations are helping save and change lives, and hopefully also to attract new donors through such great stories.

I had no trouble getting Steph to enthuse about the Florey. She is so thrilled to no longer be suffering the episodes that she couldn’t help enough.

For a copy of the letter, please contact me at



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