• Single mum Michelle (left) is a full time carer for her daughter Jess, who has a rare disease called Ehlers Danlos syndrome type 6. (SBS)
After a huge outpouring of support from viewers who saw the story on SBS's Struggle Street, Michelle can now afford to take daughter Jessica to the US for crucial treatment for her rare medical condition.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

7 Dec 2017 - 4:20 PM  UPDATED 8 Dec 2017 - 10:53 AM

Update: As of 10.51am on 8/12/17, Jessica's GoFundMe page has attracted over $96,000 thanks to a recent response to her appeal.


 

Australians have opened their hearts, wallets and purses to help a Melbourne mother and daughter struggling to survive on disability and carers pensions.

Single mum, Michelle is the full-time carer of her adult daughter Jessica who has a rare disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type 6 (EDS), which causes her connective tissue to break down. 

"I'm in pain every day," says Jessica. "It feels like knives stabbing into me."

She also has autism, moderate intellectual disability, scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis, intestinal failure and "many more diagnoses - 34 to be exact", she says online.

There is currently no cure for EDS.

Sharing their story on season two of SBS's six-part documentary Struggle Street, they reveal that Jessica requires equipment such as a $3000 wheelchair, a wheelchair van and hoist, and needs to find $60,000 for specialised treatment in the US.

Michelle had to quit her job as a pharmacy assistant to care for Jess full time. Michelle receives the carer's pension, and Jessica is on full disability pension, so the pair set up a GoFundMe page in May 2016 to help pay for their huge medical costs.

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"Jessica said ‘Mum, we’ve got to get to Baltimore’. Um and I’m like ‘yeah sure’. I wish I could just pop her in a plane and let’s go, you know," says Michelle on Struggle Street.

"But this is why we’ve got the GoFundMe and I'm trying to see if we can get some money to go to Baltimore because we’re going to have to probably go for a few months."    

In 19 months, they had received $445 in donations.  

"So far it’s, it’s slow but slow is better than nothing," said Jessica on last night's show. 

"That’s the way I see it. It’s better than not having no [sic] fundraising at all."

Since the episode went to air last night, the pair's GoFundMe page has been inundated with messages and donations from Australians moved by their story donating anywhere from $5 to $2000 each.

They received more than 1,160 donations which have raised their total to more than $53,000 of their $60,000 goal - and it's still growing. 

“The response and generosity to Jessica and Michelle’s story, as well as the many offers to help the other contributors on Struggle Street, has been immense and goes to show the power of television to bring about positive change," says Marshall Heald, SBS Director of Television and Online Content. 

"Their experience is deeply personal, but is reflective of the 2.7 million unpaid carers in Australia, a quarter of whom live below the poverty line.

"This is a key issue that our policy makers need to address, to make necessary and impactful development in our society. We wish Jessica and Michelle all the best for the next stage of their journey."

For more information on how you can help any of the Struggle Street participants, you can contact the production company KEO Films.

To find out more about Jessica’s GoFundMe campaignclick here. 

For information about carer support in your local area, call Carers Australia on 1800 242 636. 

If you or someone you know are in need of support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you missed Michelle and Jessica's story, or any other episode of Struggle Street, you can watch it on SBS On Demand.

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