Many teenagers have a phobia of exams. But for Jennifer Lloyd, it could KILL her.
Brainy Jennifer has a rare condition called Addison’s disease, meaning her body reacts to stress by shutting down her vital organs instead of producing adrenaline. It means she has turned down a chance to apply to Oxford or Cambridge University and is stretching out her AS-level revision out over several months.
Jennifer, 17, said: “It’s very tough when it gets to exam season as I have to balance my time perfectly. The illness leaves me very tired, so my mum often finds me asleep in my books while I’ve been studying. I know I can’t let myself get unnecessarily stressed out, so I have to be much more organised than my friends. As a result, I have a strict schedule where, if I do an hour of revision, I have to rest for two hours before doing any more. It means I can be short on time so I start preparing weeks in advance of everyone else to fit everything in.”
The student, from Prestwich, Manchester, is studying at Pendleton Sixth Form College which offered her the chance to look at Oxford and Cambridge under its ‘gifted and talented’ scheme.
She turned it down, adding: “It is such an honour – but I just don’t feel ready to move away yet. My college has been incredibly supportive- my teachers know the danger signs and can call my mum straight away if they think I’m getting ill. I did most of my revision last year hooked up to a drip in hospital – my weight dropped to 5st10lb because my stomach stopped absorbing fats. I was thrilled when I managed to gain 10 A grades and 2 A*s though – all the stress paid off!”
If Jennifer doesn’t receive rapid treatment, her eyes roll to the back of her head and she starts vomiting, requiring urgent hospital treatment. She now carries a hydro-cortisone injection at all times to stop the disease.
Mum, Amanda, 51, said: ”It was a relief when we finally found out what was wrong with her but the condition is hard for us all to live with.”
In 2004, Amanda started a charity called Jenny’s Pennies, which has raised £17,000 so far for Manchester Children’s Hospital’s endocrine department.