Ashleigh Jensen today
Ashleigh Jensen today

Doctors baffled by woman's mystery illness

NAUSEOUS, shaking and sweating, Ashleigh Jensen was bedridden, struck down by what doctors called a "mystery case".

This was unusual for then 23-year-old health promotion student and competitive body sculptor.

A self-confessed gym junkie and healthy food blogger, she was rarely sick and knew this was no ordinary cold or flu.

Ashleigh, now 25, said she ended up in a Brisbane hospital but doctors were baffled by what was making her so sick.

"It was Australia Day long weekend, they were short staffed, they did some tests but still didn't know exactly what it was so I was given a broad spectrum antibiotic and sent home."

A few months later Ashleigh was enjoying a coffee in a park in her home town of Buderim when the mystery illness struck again.

"It was worse than before. I went from being totally healthy, having a coffee to not knowing how I was still alive half an hour later."

Ashleigh was rushed to Nambour Hospital where she spent three days while doctors ran test after test.

Just as she was about to be discharged the results came back.

She had toxic shock syndrome.

Ashleigh is almost finished a Bachelor in Health Promotion at the University of the Sunshine Coast
Ashleigh is almost finished a Bachelor in Health Promotion at the University of the Sunshine Coast Contributed

Queensland Health describes toxic shock syndrome or TSS is an "illness caused by a toxin (poison) produced by certain types of bacterium known as Staphylococcus, often known as 'staph'". 

However, a Queensland Health spokesperson said they have limited information and no statistics on toxic shock syndrome, as it is a condition rather than a notifiable disease.

Several other government bodies, health organisations, doctors, academics and societies were contacted in regards to obtaining more information about toxic shock syndrome.

But of those contacted, no one was able to assist.

One doctor said TSS is so rare they had never seen a case and therefore couldn't comment.

Ashleigh said that's why doctors didn't pick her case of TSS up initially.

She also said she wanted to dispel the stigma you get TSS from being unhygienic.

"That's just a myth. There are many ways you can contract TSS. A lot of people don't realise the bacteria lives in your nose. TSS is also known as lots of different viruses under different names.

"I got TSS when I was competing. I ran myself into the ground eating basically nothing and training three hours a day. I wore myself out."

After contracting TSS twice in eight months, Ashleigh decided try a plant based diet.

"After running myself into the ground I started researching veganism. But it wasn't until I decided to give it a try that I noticed the difference. I just felt so much better.

"I went from eating nothing but chicken, broccoli and brown rice to 25 bananas and 10 mangos a day.

"I had energy. I went from nearly fainting on stage to having the energy to compete."

Ashleigh on stage in a body sculpting competition
Ashleigh on stage in a body sculpting competition Contributed


Ashleigh said she "coped a lot of flak" for adopting a vegan diet.

"I competed in my very last competition after changing my diet and no one believed I could maintain my condition while eating such a large amount of fruit.

"But I did and I recovered quick and built a lot of muscle. It was the best condition I was in.

"People in that industry are now seeing` there is another way to build a fit body."

Two years and seven competitions, Ashleigh threw in the competitive body sculpting towel.

And she's pleased she did. She said she doesn't think body sculpting "promotes health what so ever".

Today, Ashleigh works in the marketing and communications department for a local media company that produces worldwide food and health documentaries.

She has two semesters to go before she completes her Bachelor in Health Promotion at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

And on the side of all that she maintains her blog Wholesome Living and connects with her 10,000 plus Instagram followers.

Ashleigh shares healthy recipes on her blog Wholesome Living
Ashleigh shares healthy recipes on her blog Wholesome Living Contributed

Ashleigh is somewhat Instafamous - but totally by accident.

"I just started posting photos of food, unedited, nothing fancy and people would ask for recipes. I would sit there and type them out personally. Then I thought there has to be an easier way."

So Ashleigh created Wholesome Living, a blog where she could upload her recipes and share them with those who asked.

"When I started my blog, I was doing body sculpting, so people started following that. Then I started following a plant based diet and gained new followers of that as well.

"My blog was getting good feedback so I thought I'd better make it more professional."

She did and drew the attention of Lorna Jane and other health and fitness brands.

Lorna Jane named Ashleigh as one of their "top 10 Instagram girls you need to follow". 


A photo posted by Plant Eater•Blogger•YouTuber (@ashleighjensen) on

Ashleigh said after she finishes uni she wants to keep working with the company she's with, keep maintaining a vegan diet, keep blogging and keep promoting health via social media.

"I used to be an online health coach. I studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

"But that style of coaching wasn't for me. I prefer to write blogs, share photos and connect with people via social media.

"I am the last person I thought would go to uni and work in an industry I am passionate about especially on the Coast. I'm very lucky."

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