Addison's Disease Information
Addison’s disease is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands. Addison's disease is also known as primary adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenalism.
It's a condition where the adrenal gland is damaged, and not enough cortisol and aldosterone are produced.
Addison's Disease - A Real Life Story
Glynn was 38 when he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease – a potentially fatal condition 300 times rarer than diabetes which means a person’s adrenal glands stop producing important hormones needed to keep the body functioning correctly. People with Addison’s can lead full active lives post-diagnosis though need daily treatment for the rest of their life.
Glynn self-administers injections of these hormones every day (for life) so that his body stays healthy. Additionally he carries an emergency injection kit in case of an adrenal crisis.
In early 2015 Glynn had woken feeling slightly ‘jaded’ and ‘achy’. He skipped his morning exercise routine deciding instead to take a hot bath and began getting ready for work. He worked for the Housing Benefit Department of his local borough council and had an important objective to meet before the end of the month.
Though the Nora virus had been ‘making the rounds’ it didn’t cross his mind that he might have contracted the bug. After all, he didn’t feel sick at all, he just wasn’t feeling his sprightly self.
But Glynn’s condition changed dramatically in a very short time-frame. In the 40 minutes it took him to get to work he’d began to feel very poorly. He had a splitting headache, felt very nauseous and was feeling worse by the minute.
Glynn collapsed shortly after entering the building unbeknown to him having his first ever adrenal crisis. With nobody there to assist and without being able to muster the energy to reach for his emergency hydrocortisone injection kit he lay helplessly on the staircase leading to his office.
Next to arrive to work was Glynn’s manager Lucy who would use the same entrance and staircase. Lucy had only been Glynn’s manager two weeks. She’d acquired her role after working for a neighbouring council. She’d had her first one-to-one meeting with Glynn just days before. And it was during that meeting that Glynn had almost bashfully informed her of his medical condition.
Lucy had made a note to look up basic facts of Glynn’s illness as part of her own professional learning, however she’d not yet had the opportunity. The condition had sounded quite complex to her. She had asked Glynn how Addison’s affected his daily life but when he mentioned the two half-marathons he’d completed in the past 12 months, she considered that it could wait until the weekend.
The following are Lucy’s words:
“I’d noticed a single car in the staff car park but to be honest I didn’t know who it belonged to as I haven’t been here long.
I entered the building on autopilot; a couple of quick responses to friends on Facebook about plans for the up and coming weekend. So I flash my building entry card hung on my lanyard whilst still gazing into my iPhone.
The lights on the staircase are on a sensor so came on automatically. There is a short walk to the foot of the first flight of stairs. It was when I turned around to climb the stair I saw Glynn. It really made me jump to see someone lying right there five or six steps up the stairs. My first response was fear. I froze for a second. I dropped both my phone and my bag.
I called aloud ‘Oh my God. Glynn? Are you alright?’ I thought to myself what a bloody ridiculous question. I kicked off my heels and approached him wondering quite what to do. 999! I concluded. That is the ONLY thing that I am able to do.
I reached for my phone to make the call, only remembering as my hands felt nothing but my car keys in my coat pockets that I’d let go of it seconds earlier. Feeling the keys I briefly considered taking him to hospital. Another ridiculous thought; how would I get him into the car!
Glynn had vomited was barely conscious. Signs I would later learn that were critically dangerous to anyone with Addison’s disease.
I descended the few steps to retrieve my phone and made the call to emergency services. I was embarrassed by the fact that I knew Glynn had a medical condition though I learned of this so recently that I was unable to recall the name of it. I had the name of it on my meeting notes but my laptop was locked away in my office.
Emergency services took me through some structured questions during which I was able to tell them I’d spotted he was wearing a medical ID wristband. Inside the band a card simply read “I HAVE ADDISON’S DISEASE – PLEASE TURN OVER.” On the other side of the card was a unique ID code and an instruction to enter it in the event of an emergency at www.you-id.me.
Putting emergency services on hands-free enabled me to access Glynn’s emergency ID profile and read aloud the information that he had chosen to share in an emergency.
“I CARRY AN EMERGENCY INJECTION KIT.” I went in his bag which was already open lying two steps further up the staircase and located the kit which was labelled “Addison’s Disease Emergency Injection Kit”.
The emergency services operator was able to draw upon her own training and advise me how to prepare and administer the hydrocortisone injection into Glynn’s upper arm. It was really very scary.
When the next staff member arrived I asked them to wait at the door and advise other staff members to use an alternative entrance. By the time the ambulance crew arrived and took over, Glynn was showing more positive signs of consciousness, though he was still very poorly.
Since then I have been thanked for saving Glynn’s life. But I say he saved his own life by carrying clear and concise effective emergency medical ID. Though it feels like a cliché to say, I feel I did what anyone would have done. Since then I’ve done quite a lot of reading about Glynn’s condition too.”
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