A South Shields woman’s fundraising appeal to buy a specialist wheelchair so she can retain her independence has received a huge boost from an anonymous benefactor.
Jessica Thompson has spent most of her life battling a range of debilitating conditions - including repeated dislocations of various joints in her body.
The 21-year-old’s health problems failed to stop her from continuing to pursue her dream of becoming a sports journalist - until now.
Her current wheelchair is no longer fit for purpose, leaving her relying on her family to help her get out and about.
In a bid to raise the money to purchase a new wheelchair, an appeal was launched to try and raise the £10,000 needed.
Within hours of Jessica’s story being shared on social media, a generous donor deposited £5,000 onto her Just Giving page - which has taken her over the halfway mark - while another donor pledged £500 to the cause.
It’s unbelievable. People have been so lovely and so generous through their kind messages of support and their donations.Julie Thompspon
The chair itself costs £9,000, with the remainder of the cash being used to pay for a special suit in a bid to reduce the number of dislocations Jessica suffers.
Mum Julie said: “It’s unbelievable. People have been so lovely and so generous through their kind messages of support and their donations.
“When the £5,000 appeared it was such a massive shock. We were all crying when we saw it and just didn’t know what to do.
“Everyone has been so kind. We never thought we would get donations of £100, but to receive £500, then £5,000 - you just can’t put it into words.
“We would love to be able to have the wheelchair by Christmas for Jess, but we still have a long way to go. But to know it is now within our sights, it’s amazing.”
Jessica lives a daily battle against the conditions she has been diagnosed with, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) and gastroparesi.
But that hasn’t failed to prevent her from living as full a life as possible, and for years she dedicated a lot of her time to helping others through the Make A Wish Foundation and Whizz Kids.
She has also completed the first year of an Open University course.
It is now only her wheelchair which is now stopping her in her tracks.
Due to the fragility of her body she is unable to use a manual wheelchair and instead needs a motorised one with suspension.
Jessica said: “The new power chair will enable me to gain back some of my independence at home and outside.
“It’s the little things, like being able to go to a counter in a shop and pay for my items on my own, as the new chair has a riser and tilt on it.
“Going into a bar with friends and being able to buy my own drink.
“The thing I’m really looking forward to is being able to raise my chair, so I’m at eye level with everyone else and have a conversation with them.
“At the moment people will bend down to talk to me or just talk to my mam and dad.
“Just like any other 21-year-old I have dreams and goals for my future. I would like to pursue a career in sports journalism or presenting.
“I love writing, photography and film making. Through my previous voluntary work I have gained and developed many skills which will help me achieve my goals.
“My dream job would be a wrestling commentator for the WWE. When I tell people that they normally laugh at me, I’ve been told that’s never going to happen because I’m in a wheelchair.
“At the moment I feel very trapped and unable to get close to pursuing my career.
“My new wheelchair will help me so much. It will give me back my independence and help build up my confidence.
“It will allow me to return to some voluntary work, which I really enjoyed doing and have missed being a part of.
“The rise and tilt will also allow me to raise up to the same height as other people. I will be able to look people in the eye and talk to them which will be great when I’m interviewing someone.
“It will also help with my photography, as sometimes I have to ask my mam or dad to take the photos for me because I can’t see over barriers or fences.”
To help her reach the final target, the Freemasons have stepped in to help boost her funds with a donation of £200, while family friend Angela Moore, supported by Michelle Johnson, have organised a fundraiser.
The event will take place at Westoe Rugby Club on Friday, August 31, at 7pm.
The night will feature a disco, buffet with a guests having the chance to win a range of raffle prizes.
Julie added: “Angela and Michelle have been fantastic helping to organise the night for Jess. We can’t thank them enough for their support.”
Tickets for the night cost £5 and can be bought by either messaging the Wheels for Jessica page or contacting Julie on 07908 258 859.
Anyone who would like to donate visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/wheelsforjess