Addisons

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

The envy of her friends Jenny Green thought she was simply blessed with a sun kissed glow but behind her beach babe tan was a sinister disease in disguise. As a young girl Jenny had a peaches and cream complexion, by the time she had her own children she began developing a deep tan that got darker over the years. What she didn't realise, was that the tan was a warning of the time bomb, ticking inside her.

Jenny had every reason to feel lucky a naturally bronzed body that never put on weight. "I thought i had a great metabolism, if a missed a meal whether it be lunch, breakfast or whatever, i would lose about 2 kilo's" but despite her looks, and healthy lifestyle she started to struggle. "I started to feel extremely lethargic where i could barely function at work. Then to a stage where i couldn't walk more than 50 meters without collapsing"

Doctors tested her for dozens of conditions, from leukaemia, to diabetes and heart problems- everything except the disease slowly killing her. Jenny says "I started to blame things like maybe i wasn't having enough vitamins, so i put myself on vitamin supplements" Still, she felt terribly unwell and her weight dropped to just forty five kilos. "I went through with a holiday i had planned with my daughter to go to Sydney" After her first night Jenny was desperately ill, "I woke up the next morning i was pretty much lifeless i couldn't pick my head up off the pillow without throwing up"

She was rushed to Manly Hospital. "The doctor first asked if i had recently been on holiday because i had this lovely tan. Then the doctor sat on my bed and he had a look at my palms then he put out his and i could see there was a huge difference. The crease in my palm were darker than his, a lot darker and to him that was confirmation that i might have had this disease called Addison's disease" "Addison disease is very difficult to diagnose" Professor Michael Kennedy led the team of doctors who made the diagnosis that saved Jenny's life. Addison's disease attacks the adrenal glands, which produce a hormone called cortisol, without it, you die.

One of the most famous sufferers of Addison's is JFK. Who's believed to have lived with the disease for twenty years. But, it is extremely rare, and Jenny is one of only a thousand Australians to be affected. Once diagnosed, treatment is simply a case of taking a pill. Jenny believes her suntan, helped save her life thanks to the doctors who picked up, what others had missed. Jenny's now making the most of her second chance as for the tan, well, that's here to stay a reminder of how lucky she is, to be alive.

Further Details

www.addisons.org.au