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Public outpouring for woman’s plight

Struggle Street viewers were left devastated after witnessing the harrowing situation Jessica, 23.
Struggle Street viewers were left devastated after witnessing the harrowing situation Jessica, 23. SBS-TV

DISTRESSING scenes on Struggle Street featuring a young woman with a rare and incurable disease have sparked a major national fundraising effort.

In an episode this week, Jessica, 23, from Melbourne, was seen going about her daily business: sitting on the front steps of her family home, blowing bubbles to pass the time.

Jessica lives her life in constant pain, having been diagnosed with 34 different conditions in total - including Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type 6, autism, a moderate intellectual disability, scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis and intestinal failure.

"It feels like knives stabbing me," Jessica revealed.

Her mother Michelle, a single mum-of-two, was forced to quit her job as a pharmacy assistant to care for her daughter full-time, and both women now live on disability and carer's pensions.

It's a hard life below the poverty line, but there's nothing more harrowing than the fact that Michelle is now having to plan for her daughter's funeral, given her life expectancy is only 40.

"It's horrible. We're looking at a prepaid funeral now. I don't know when the time is going to come, but when it happens, I want to be able to go, 'I'm really glad the funeral is in place,'" she said.

"It's something I can't stop thinking about ... burying your child before yourself."

Michelle and Jessica’s plight struck a chord with viewers
Michelle and Jessica’s plight struck a chord with viewers

It was a moment which shocked Australians everywhere, and prompted them to reach out with offers of help.

A year-and-a-half ago, Jessica set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money to get the proper treatments for her rare condition.

"Doctors can make my life comfortable but to do that I need to travel to the only clinic that knows enough about my disease, in Baltimore, USA," she said.

"Doctors in Australia do not know much about type 6 EDS and simply cannot help me. This is my only option left to live a comfortable life, as I have tried many treatments here in Australia and none have worked."

The fundraising effort sat almost dormant at $120 for months after the page was set up, well below the $60,000 goal.

But following this week's episode of Struggle Street, that figure had skyrocketed to nearly $90,000 as of Friday morning.

To help Jessica receive treatment, visit her GoFundMe page.

Struggle Street continues Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays at 8.30pm on SBS.

Topics:  sbs tv struggle street television

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