Real Stories

Real Stories 

What does a world famous Lead Guitarist, former AFL Coach, University Dean and a Documentary Producer have in common? Well they’re all busy…and they all care about their bones.

Living with low bone density or osteoporosis means taking action to improve your bone health.  Many thanks to the following individuals who have taken the time to share their stories with us to encourage us all to take better care of our bones.

Kirk Pengilly

INXS Band Member

When I was 37, I was diagnosed with borderline Osteoporosis due to my very low bone density. I was shocked as I thought it was, you know, an elderly ladies disease. But I now go to the gym regularly and have been on a Calcium supplement regime, which has increased my bone density. It's really important to look after your health.

David Parkin

Former AFL Captain & Coach, President AFL Coaches Association, Fox Sport and ABC radio commentator, Sports writer and University Professor

I’m a fitness freak, I work out most days, yet ironically I was running down the stairs when I fractured my vertebrae, and was subsequently diagnosed with osteoporosis. After visiting my specialist, he inspired/directed me to lift weights and improve my diet. Now, weight training is pivotal to my fitness routine, and I drink a lot more high calcium-enriched milk. I now also take osteoporosis treatment.  It’s been almost 2 years since I was diagnosed with osteoporosis and because I’m actively managing my bone health, I’m feeling great.

Professor Christine Bennett

Dean, School of Medicine, Sydney, the University of Notre Dame Australia. Board Director and Health Advocate.

I am passionate about healthcare and messages around prevention. My career in the health sector has initially been as a paediatrician, and later at health funds and universities, not-for-profits organisations in healthcare & research, and for government advisory committees on healthcare. As a mother of 5, my work and family keeps me very busy and I travel frequently both interstate and overseas.

While working with Dr John Darcy on public health messages a few years ago, Dr John recommended to me that I have a bone density test done.  At the age of 54 I was diagnosed with low bone density. Both my mother and younger sister already had low bone density and I had taken steroid medication related to asthma in the past.  It was also discovered my vitamin D levels were low which has resulted in me now taking vitamin D supplements, increasing calcium into my diet generally and doing specific exercises (skipping and weight bearing) for my bones.

Nine months later at the age of 55, I fell down some stairs at home and fractured my wrist. The hospital took excellent care of my fracture but I was keen to check if my bone density was part of the cause (in addition to falling).  I asked for my bone health to be investigated and was sent for another bone density test. I was surprised to discover I had osteoporosis – my bones had deteriorated around 7% in almost a year.  The good news was my vitamin D levels were back to normal because of the supplements. My doctor discussed treatment options with me as menopause was approaching.  My decision was to try HRT for several years, with a plan to proceed to another osteoporosis medication in future. It’s been 2 years since commencing treatment and I’ve had no other fractures.  I watch my health, eat well, take exercise for my bones.  I’m due for another bone density test to check my progress.

My advice: Understand your bones are important to your life and your longevity, they’re essentially the scaffolding that carries you around. So look after your bones, be informed about risk factors for low bone density and talk to your doctor. And if you’re over 50 and have a fracture then ASK the doctors to investigate your bone health.

Andrea Ulbrick

Documentary Producer and Director

I always remember noticing that my grandmother had a dowager's hump which we thought was just old age. Then my mother developed osteoporosis and later on, my sister was diagnosed. I eventually went for a bone density scan but only after fracturing my wrist from a fall, did I find out I had osteoporosis. I now know a family history of osteoporosis can be a strong risk factor. I commenced treatment immediately and fortunately have avoided any other fractures. My bone health is now an ongoing part of caring for my general health.  I encourage any women, or men, to talk with their doctor if they have risk factors, and to always be mindful that it isn't all bad news. There's plenty that can be done but knowledge is crucial, do your best to find out first.

Kim Martin, busy mother of two 

Early one morning I woke up with excruciating back pain. I had no idea what was going on. Three months earlier I had given birth to a healthy baby girl with no complications, feeling back to normal within a week. As a busy mother of two I ignored the severe pain and continued on with life as best I could. My son Aiden was two at the time and I had three month old Addison, so stopping life wasn’t really an option.

Eventually I went to see my GP. I was unsatisfied with the diagnosis of ‘muscle pain from breastfeeding’. I knew it was something more so I sought a second opinion and disappointingly I received the same diagnosis. I regret not being firmer with the medical professionals and insisting that it was not just muscle pain.

My pain continued until it became unbearable and my stomach began to bloat resulting in hospitalisation. A consultant at the hospital noticed a curve in my back and ordered x-rays that showed three crush fractures in my spine. It was recommended I be investigated for osteoporosis and I was referred to an orthopaedic surgeon. MRI and CT scans were conducted and with them returning clear, I finally went to an endocrinologist. A bone scan and blood tests found I have pregnancy associated osteoporosis. My diagnosis occurred three months after I experienced the first pain.

It was a good 18 months before I started to feel normal, I think it takes so long because kids don't just look after themselves and the lifting never stops… into the bath, out of the bath, into the car seat, changing nappies, you can't just stop doing these things to give your body the rest it needs. We have always been a fit and healthy family so it was a shock that something like this could happen to me.

I will always be fearful of fracturing again because the initial pain was so severe. The thought of going through that again is very upsetting. 

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Author: Osteoporosis Australia Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee
Last updated: 09/12/2018 - 12:51