A radio producer diagnosed with a condition which leaves him feeling no fear is to spread the word about his condition.
Peter 'Jordy' Cernik, who graduated from the University of Sunderland with an MA in radio production, is aiming to raise awareness of the rare medical condition he suffers from, which left medics baffled for years.
The 42-year-old, from Jarrow, has now been seen by millions of Australians in a TV documentary as part of an effort to spread awareness of Cushing’s syndrome.
The condition is a collection of symptoms caused by high levels of a hormone called cortisol in the body.
Jordy said: “It is a rare disease, only one in a million people get it. Patients are mostly women, or horses, so I guess I’m classed as even more rare.
“A lot of doctors in the 1990s did not know what Cushing’s was and so I set off on a long journey which included many different types of treatments.”
Jordy went through a series of brain operations and two procedures to remove his adrenal glands. There were several complications along the way, including a brain leak.
He went on to develop pneumonia and meningitis and even ended up in a coma and on a life support machine.
Jordy also had to undergo plastic surgery to remove large areas of fat from his chest.
In 2012, Jordy, a dad to Aimee, 12, and Evie, nine, realised a further change had happened – he was no longer feeling fear.
“At this point I knew something was wrong so I decided to try out a skydive. I went on a small, twin-engine plane that went up to 17,000ft,” said Jordy.
“Even at the point where my legs dangled from the aeroplane, I felt absolutely nothing.”
Jordy then did a test for a BBC programme where he abseiled down the 418ft National Lift Tower in Northampton, while hooked up to a heart monitor.
“The line on the monitor should have been going up and down rapidly,” said Jordy. “Instead there was nothing, it just flatlined.”
Jordy’s remarkable story last year featured on BBC Two programme Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston’s Casebook. A version of the show has now recently aired in Australia, an important development for the graduate.
He said: “It means more people are learning about Cushing’s, understanding what it’s all about.
“I believe there are a lot more people out there suffering and we don’t want them to suffer in silence anymore.”
During his time at the University of Sunderland Jordy was also tested for dyslexia.
He said: “I did the test and then literally everything changed in one day. The support I got from the university was incredible.
“That led to me wanting to do more on my course.”
As part of his time at the University of Sunderland, Jordy worked on a project recounting his own experience of being so critically ill.
The project was then recognised when he claimed a bronze prize at the New York Festivals World’s Best Radio Programs awards for his work - Both Sides of Dying – a look back at a time when he was on life support.
The University of Sunderland offers support to any student with dyslexia – or needs to talk through the dyslexia assessment process
Anyone who would like to contact its team can call (0191) 515 2952 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss an assessment for dyslexia.