When it comes to diseases or disabilities, you can’t always tell what a person is fighting against by looking at them. That’s especially true for a Syracuse University Grad student with a rare life-threatening adrenal disease. 


What You Need To Know

  • Haley Michlitsch was diagnosed with Addison's disease in 2017

  • Addison's is a life-threatening adrenal gland disease that impacts the body's ability to produce cortisol, the fight or flight hormone

  • When cortisol levels are low, Hayley can feel light headed, turn pale, and feel tired


But recently, she’s been able to manage her illness a little bit easier with the help of specially trained dog.

“I just tell people that I do have a disease that can be life threatening," said Syracuse University graduate student Haley Michlitsch. “One moment I can be completely fine doing well, and then all of a sudden I can start going low on my cortisol and have an Addisonian crisis or crash.”

Haley is studying clinical medical health counseling at Syracuse University.

She is one of the very few who has Addison’s disease, which affects 1 in 100,000 people. Addison’s disease impacts the adrenal glands and effects the body's ability to produce cortisol, the fight or flight hormone. 

“It’s impacted my life a lot because I used be someone that was always doing something and now I kind of have to limit what I’m doing and think of what’s most important for me in life,” said Michlitsch.

Haley takes hydrocortisone to manage her hormone levels, but if her cortisol levels get too low, it can be extremely dangerous. 

She was diagnosed in 2017 after an Addisonian crisis, causing her to be in the hospital for 17 days. Doctors weren’t sure if she was going to make it. 

After that it was up to Haley to know when her cortisol levels were getting low, but many times she only realized when it was too late, sending her to the hospital or emergency room.

But living alone, she wanted some help.

“I just wanted a dog to help alert me when I am getting low. He can pick up on my cortisol smell and be able to alert me whether my insulin is going low or my cortisones is going low and help make me more manageable,” said Michlitsch.

So last month, she got Addy, a service dog and trained by Diabetes of America.

Before getting him, she started a fundraiser to be able to bring him home. If you want to help Haley with Addy, you can donate here.

He lets Haley know when her levels are low by pawing at her. 

"It’s just given me a new sense of life and kind of helped me realize that I have  someone that can protect over me even though, It’s not a person It’s a dog. They are able to sense so much more and help me stay as safe as I can,” said Michlitsch

Having Addison’s disease makes you more prone to other health issues.

Haley has dealt with thyroid cancer, grave’s disease, and she might also have diabetes. 

She wants to spread awareness in the hopes of saving a life.