STRATFORD mother-of-three Jess Strickland has a smile that dazzles and a bright, positive personality that belies her struggles.
But after four years of watching her daughter suffer, and the guilt of not having the resources to help, she has swallowed her pride to reach out for help.
On March 6, 2015, Jess’s second child, Crystal Mae, made her very early entrance into the world at 25 weeks.
Born at just 425 grams, and with the odds stacked against her, the tiny bub spent the first 157 days in hospital three hours from home.
Jess said there were countless times when doctors walked into the room with “bad news”, but Crystal continued to fight through infections, blood transfusions, bleeding on the brain, a hole in the heart and a collapsed lung.
Since then, Jess and her husband Gavin have watched their child battle to stay alive for four, frightening years.
Now at home, and at first glance a happy, healthy and loving child, Crystal still suffers from the effects of being a ‘prem’ baby, with multiple health problems.
There has been neurological damage that causes seizures, her muscles are wasting and she has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and brittle bones.
Waking is impossible without a frame, and on bad days the four-year-old can’t even crawl.
The hard-working Stricklands have a very different family life to most, with a seven-year-old son on the autism spectrum needing specialist assistance, and a two-year-old, hearing-impaired and non-verbal son, as well as Crystal.
There are fortnightly trips to Melbourne to access the specialist care Crystal requires, costly medical and accommodation expenses, and little sign of relief for the future.
Most of the time Jess and Crystal have to face the journey alone in a clapped out station wagon that can barely make the trip, but when time and work permits, Gavin is there right beside them.
The couple know that as Crystal gets older, every day will be a challenge.
This year, 2019, their brave tot faces more surgeries and medical intervention, and of course more trips to specialists.
Jess has started a GoFundMe page, and is hoping to hold some fundraising activities during the year, such as a ‘walk for Crystal’ around the lake, to help the family cover the cost of a modified van and some medical expenses.
“We would like to make this as comfortable as possible — after trying every avenue available to us we have been left no other choice but to ask for help to get a car that suits her needs and make life a little less stressful,” Jess said.
“I have never been one to ask for handouts or help, but we are hoping our community can get behind us and help in any way, but it’s very overwhelming and we are unsure of where to begin.
“To be honest my life focus with her has always been medical, but I’m willing to try absolutely everything to help my daughter — she never gave up her fight and I plan to fight for her until I have nothing left.
“We are currently at risk of losing everything we own because we have put Crystal and her needs before ours.”
Anyone who would like to help should go to gofundme.com/wheels-for-crystal
There is also a Facebook page detailing Crystal’s life and medical issues, called ‘My Miracle Girl Crystal’.