Struggle Street: Mother and daughter story raises $50,000

Jess, a 23-year-old from Melbourne's northern suburbs, is speechless. So too is her mother.

On Wednesday night, the pair sat down to watch Struggle Street's second season. It has been more than a year since they let SBS camera crews into their home to help educate Australians about what it's like living below the poverty line.

Jess lives with the rarest form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a genetic disorder that causes her connective tissue to break down. Sometimes she can't get out of bed because it feels like a thousand tiny knives are stabbing her skin. Mum Michelle is her full-time carer.

Since filming wrapped up 18 months ago, Jess's condition has worsened. Her back has gotten a lot worse and she is now facing intestinal failure.

Now, there is a glimmer hope.

Not long after the credits rolled on their episode of Struggle Street, a friend called and asked if Jess had seen her GoFundMe page. Prior to her story being told on national television, she had raised around $400 to help pay for expensive treatment in the United States. When Michelle logged onto the online fundraising platform, her jaw almost hit the floor. Hundreds of people had dug deep and pledged a total of $24,000. The figure kept rising before their very eyes.

"We checked it again and nearly fell over," Jess said. "We didn't think anything like this would happen. It makes my heart so warm."

As of Thursday afternoon, Jess had raised more than $53,000 - just shy of her $60,000 goal. She hopes to fly to Baltimore to be treated at a specialist EDS clinic, as well as buy a proper wheelchair.

Doctors have told her if all goes to plan, she can expect to live to the age of 40. But if she doesn't receive specialist treatment in the US, her diagnosis is much more grim.

"The funds are being raised so I can be more independent," Jess said. "It's going to really, really be able to help me live a life that's more comfortable. I don't know what's going to happen... but with this money and the treatment, I'll be able to live a little bit more comfortably."

Speaking over the phone, mum Michelle is on the verge of tears. But for the first time in a long time, they're tears of joy.

"A thank you to people does not seem enough," she said. "I wish I could hug every single one of those people who have donated. If I could, I would."

SBS director of television Marshall Heald said in a statement said there has been an "immense" response to Struggle Street's second season.

"[It] goes to show the power of television to bring about positive change," he said. "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 policymakers need to address. We wish Jessica and Michelle all the best for the next stage of their journey."

This story Struggle Street: Mother and daughter story raises $50,000 first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.