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Vanessa’s Story – Living with Adrenal Insufficiency

Vanessa is part of our MedicAlert family and her story - challenging and inspiring - illustrates just how integral her MedicAlert ID and membership are to enabling her to live her life fully, despite the serious health issue she lives with – Adrenal Insufficiency. The peace of mind afforded to Vanessa - and to all our members living with their own unique heath issues - is priceless. We love to hear from our members. Their stories of perseverance in the face of adversity reinforce the purpose and mission of MedicAlert: to protect and save lives in times of need. Here is Vanessa’s story:

When I was eighteen, I had a procedure called an adrenalectomy, which is the surgical removal of one or both adrenal glands usually due to the presence of tumors. I’d been diagnosed with a tumor on one of my adrenal glands and surgery was scheduled shortly after my diagnosis. Performed at the University of San Francisco, the surgery was a success and I was sent home with a good prognosis and assurances from my doctors that I’d be able to live my life as normally as I had been before this unexpected and unwelcome turn of events.

For many years, my doctor's assurances proved true. I did lead a “normal life” and when I turned 30, I happily discovered that I was pregnant with my first child. During my pregnancy, my doctor noticed that my blood pressure was elevated and because I had a history of endocrine tumors, he ordered a CT scan. The scan showed that I had another tumor, this time near my kidney. From that moment on, my pregnancy went from being my own to more of a shared experience as I was monitored very closely by a multitude of medical professionals. Fortunately, my pregnancy progressed normally and despite all the added medical appointments and stress about my diagnosis, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl named Nayeli.

I’d had a planned cesarean section and my doctors felt confident that I was strong and healthy enough to wait until I was fully healed before undergoing surgery yet again. So, about a month later, I was back in the hospital undergoing surgery to remove the tumor. Unfortunately, the procedure proved to be long, difficult and ultimately, unsuccessful. The doctors were unable to remove the tumor and it remains there to this day, requiring careful and constant monitoring.

My story doesn’t end there. In 2017, my doctors found that another tumor had developed on my remaining adrenal gland. We made the decision to remove the gland entirely and my doctors told me that while I could live my life without adrenal glands, there would be many challenges, including taking medications for the rest of my life.

With Adrenal Insufficiency, my body does not produce necessary hormones - particularly in times of stress or illness. The lack of regulating hormones can lead to what is known as Addisonian crisis (also known as an adrenal crisis) – a life threatening situation that results in low blood pressure, low blood levels of sugar and high blood levels of potassium. This situation requires immediate medical care. As a result, my doctors advised me to wear a medical-alert ID at all times to ensure my health history would be quickly relayed to medical professional should I ever experience a health crisis.

Life with adrenal insufficiency can be difficult and it took a long time to learn to compensate and take care of myself. A large component of my self-care is wearing my MedicAlert ID every day. I started with one ID and now have quite a few of them - in different styles because I like the options and the variety, but I do like my bracelet the most.

The MedicAlert ID helps me to feel safe in my busy life. It also provides peace of mind to my family and friends to know that I am protected when away from them. After everything I endured physically, I didn’t want to lose my freedom due to the fear of being vulnerable in a time of crisis. The MedicAlert ID has allayed that fear and has given me the confidence to continue to work full time, to travel and to go back to school. I am so grateful to all my family, friends and MedicAlert for supporting my independence.