Health Stories

Medical shock! Woman who hit her head can’t smell anything!

A head bump had unexpected consequences

Chloe’s head bump had unexpected consequences.

Here, Chloe Donovan, 31, from Botany, NSW, shares her story.

Taking a bite of a cheese toastie, I frowned. 

I couldn’t taste it. 

I can’t be hungry, I thought, sitting in my hospital bed.

I’d fainted at work and fallen back on concrete, splitting open my head.

My colleagues called the ambos, and I’d been given stitches.

Back home the same day, I couldn’t smell the soap or shampoo in the shower. Brushing my teeth, I couldn’t taste the toothpaste. 

I can’t smell anything, I realised, shocked. 

And, I couldn’t taste anything, either. 

Brain scans confirmed I’d damaged my olfactory nerve – which gives you your sense of smell.  

My condition was called anosmia, but specialists couldn’t help, or say if it was permanent. 

I’d had a sweet tooth but now lollies tasted like rubber bands and chocolate like crayons. 

Burgers and pizza tasted like tissues. Spag bol was just mush and salad was like grass. All I could discern was texture and temperature.

Put on a high-protein supplement, it was expensive, so I switched to chocolate milk for brekkie, lunch and dinner.

I couldn’t taste it, but I liked the texture. 

Sometimes I’d hold a flower to my nose and inhale deeply, desperate for its scent. 

Mark on Chloe Donovan's head
The mark where I hit my head

One day, my son Spencer, 13, came home.

‘Have you been making toast?’ he asked. 

‘No mate,’ I said. 

We found a blackened loaf on top of the toaster. I’d pressed down the lever, scorching it, but I hadn’t smelt it burning.

I couldn’t smell if food was off, and was paranoid about body odour.  

In the supermarket, I’d look longingly at the shelves of amazing food and try not to cry. 

It’s now been five years since I hit my head and lost my sense of smell.

I’ve forgotten the aroma of crusty fresh bread and the earth after it rains. 

And memories, such as Grandma’s roast chicken, or the smell of the beach have been stolen, too.

As it’s not visible, people forget I have it. 

But I miss my sense of smell so badly – even the odour of ashtrays. 

Blood tests show I’m healthy, despite the chocolate milk! 

Anxiety and depression are common for people with anosmia, though, so I started a Facebook page for sufferers. It helps to know others are going through the same thing.

If my sense of smell ever does come back, I’m going to take a fortnight off work and gorge myself silly!

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