For years, doctors told 14-year-old Grace Jackson-Matthew that her chronic pain was just in her head—yet she and her family knew it was something more. Finally, after traveling to Germany to see a new set of physicians, she received an explanation for her pain that was more frightening than she ever imagined.
Jackson-Matthew, who's from the UK, has four different vascular compression syndromes, meaning her veins and organs are being crushed inside her body, according to her page on the crowdfunding website JustGiving. She's in constant pain and is mostly bed-bound because she's unable to walk on her own. She also can't stomach solid foods and has lost nearly 45 pounds in under a year.
Jackson-Matthew was diagnosed with median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS), superior mesenteric artery syndrome (SMAS), renal nutcracker syndrome (NCS), and May-Thurner syndrome.
MALS is caused by a ligament pressing on the artery that supplies blood to the stomach, liver, and other parts of the body. SMAS describes a condition where part of the small intestine is squeezed between two arteries. NCS occurs when a vein that carries blood from the kidney becomes compressed. May-Thurner syndrome is characterized by an artery compressing a vein that runs through the leg.
Now, Jackson-Matthew's family is hoping she can undergo surgery to rearrange her blood vessels and ligaments to relieve some of the pressure. According to her JustGiving page, she'll need to travel to internationally to get the nearly $65,000 surgery.
"These compressions gradually worsen (as other veins have to compensate when blood flow is impaired)," her page reads, "and eventually Grace will be unable to digest food, be unable to eat at all without artificial feeding via a tube, she will develop pelvic congestion and her kidneys will fail and eventually she will loose the ability to walk."
Her page says that aside from her illness, Jackson-Matthew is a bubbly, animal-loving 14-year-old, though her condition has kept her from living a normal life. Her family has hope that this surgery will change that.