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Joelene's story

Living life to the full after health battle

Joelene Treloar has more reason than most to celebrate each day.

At 22, the then fit and healthy young mother was suddenly and inexplicably struck down by a rare illness that left her fighting for life and in and out of hospital for 11 years.

“I was very fit and healthy. I was a mum and while I was teaching my four-year-old girl to ride a bike to school I started to notice I was feeling tired and I had a heavy chest,” Joelene said.

Joelene, then living interstate, went to her GP and she was initially diagnosed with anaemia and a chest infection. After two courses of antibiotics and two weeks later, her symptoms worsened and she began coughing up blood.

Blood and urine tests were dire: haemoglobin levels at 33, and only a five per cent kidney and liver function. She was rushed to hospital, where she was later diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that sees the immune system mistakenly destroy health body tissue, including organs and tissue.

Joelene was told the syndrome had been diagnosed at its end stages; that she was very ill and there was no cure, but that medical staff could treat the resulting health problems.

“They said ‘you are not going to be able to have any more babies and you are going to be starting high dose chemotherapy to kill your immune system’,” she said.

Terrified and in shock, Joelene began treatment immediately. She was discharged and returned home, but days later woke in the middle of the night coughing up thick, dark blood.

In hospital she started having seizures and was placed in an induced coma for days.

She later developed acute kidney failure and began dialysis. In 2010 she received a kidney transplant, but this later failed and she returned to dialysis treatment.

Four years ago she moved back to South Australia and was under the care of medical staff at the Royal Adelaide Hospital when she started the ‘work up’ or evaluation process for another kidney transplant.

Over the course of four years Joelene went through several ‘work ups’ to assess her health and to ensure a kidney transplant would be viable.

“Every time I would get through all of the tests and then, at the final stage, something would happen and it couldn’t go ahead,” Joelene said.

A pap smear revealed pre-cancerous cells, prompting a hysterectomy. Then, in 2016, a brain haemorrhage, possibly brought on by blood thinning medication and high blood pressure.

Then meningitis, resulting in a four month hospital stay and three weeks in a coma. This resulted in brain injury and the need for rehabilitation. Abscesses resulted in more surgery.

Finally, four months ago, the news she had been waiting for – she was ready and a kidney could be available for her.

The surgery was a success. And now, 11 years after her initial diagnosis, Joelene is living life to the full.

Grateful for every day, the love and support of her mother, family and friends and her daughter, Joelene knows she may face health challenges again in the future. But she is hopeful the worst is behind her.

Joelene thanked the “amazing” staff at the RAH including Dr Susan Crail, Professor Toby Coates, Dr Santosh Olakkengil, Dr Christine Russell, Dr Georgina Irish, Transplant Coordinator Hilary Styles, and all medical and nursing staff who supported and cared for her.

“I have had the most amazing staff. My nephrologist, the beautiful Dr Crail, I can’t thank her enough for everything she has done for me and all the encouragement she has provided me over the past four years,” she said.

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Joelene Treloar with her mum Lorraine.

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