On a day just like any other in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, 21-year-old Jess sits alone on the front step of her family home, blowing bubbles to pass the time.
Wednesday night’s episode of Struggle Street introduced us to Jess, and her mum and full-time carer Michelle.
While most women in their early 20s are studying at uni, travelling, catching up with friends or starting their first ‘real’ job, Jess is mostly housebound by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 6, a condition that affects the body’s connective tissue. Currently, there is no cure.
As Jess put it, “All my collagen is faulty. Without collagen, you fall apart”.
Three years ago, single mum Michelle was forced to quit her job to take care of Jess. Her Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 6, as well as autism and a mild mental disability mean she requires around-the-clock care.
Both receive benefits from the government – disability and carer’s pension. But this only covers so much. On a day-to-day level, things like a wheelchair van and hoist would make Jess and Michelle’s lives considerably easier.
Their story, however, is not uncommon. In 2016, statistics showed three million Australians were living under the national poverty line of $426.30 a week.
Despite Michelle's daily financial struggle to make her daughter's life comfortable, it pales in comparison to the idea of planning your daughter's funeral.
"It's horrible, we're looking at a pre-paid 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."
As soon as the credits rolled, there was just one question Australians were asking: How can we help Jess?
In under an hour following the show, the 21-year-old's GoFundMe page raised around $28,000. In the months before, it sat at just $120.
#StruggleStreet Where is a link to Jess's Go Fund Me page?
— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) December 6, 2017
everyone go to jess's go fund me page lets help her #strugglestreet
— Patty (@yiota89) December 6, 2017
Last one from me re this but I'm floored at the audiences' generosity, Congratulations, Jess! It looks like you will soon have the care that you desreve and so desperately need. #StruggleStreet #SBS https://t.co/HBHWK8CkgR
— kylieboltin (@kylieboltin) December 6, 2017
Surpassing their original $60,000 goal, the GoFundMe page is currently sitting at almost double that, at $111,424 as of Saturday afternoon. This is thanks to the remarkable generosity of Australians who may never meet Jess, but after hearing her story, felt compelled to help in whatever way they could.
Whether it $10 or $100, every dollar donated will go towards the mother and daughter travelling to Baltimore in the US, where Jess can receive the treatment to live her life as comfortably as possible.
This, to spend what's left of their time together enjoying life, is all Jess and Michelle hope for.
LISTEN: The Binge discusses why Struggle Street is not poverty porn, it's real life...