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'Thank you for giving me a future': Mother's thanks after thousands help raise cash for life-saving surgery

A woman given just months to live unless she could raise £180,000 for an operation only available in America is in recovery back at home in Sutton Coldfield, with doctors saying the surgery was a success.

And the cherry on the cake? It was just in time for her birthday.

Video report by Charlotte Cross:

Mother-of-two Jessica Kill, who turned 39 this week, is now able to walk and talk properly again, eat and swallow freely, and is no longer in the same agonising pain.

It’s amazing - there is some post-operative pain, as you might expect, but it’s completely different.

The neurological symptoms are, every day, are getting so much better. I can walk, which is a great start. My arm I can use again. I'm just getting better every day so it's marvellous. I couldn't ask for more.

– Jessica Kill

Ms Kill was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) more than 10 years ago - a rare hereditary condition which affects the body’s supply of collagen, leaving ligaments ‘stretchy’, and means her body cannot properly control her heart rate, blood pressure or temperature.

But until the end of last year, she had been coping, holding down a full-time job as a project manager and looking after her two young sons.

Then, at Christmas, she was told the devastating news that she had developed two related conditions - chiari and craniocervical instability - which had caused her brain to start sinking through the bottom of her skull.

If left untreated, it would have left her completely paralysed within months - and could have been fatal.

The scar from one of her surgeries Credit: ITV News

But she was forced to look to the United States for that life-saving treatment, as the operation is not available on the NHS - and that meant raising tens of thousands of pounds in just 15 weeks.

She was initially told it would cost £150,000 - but the cost rose following the Brexit vote, thanks to a slump in the value of the pound against the dollar.

She had two operations, one to fuse part of her spine and another to decompress the nerves which had been squashed, causing spreading paralysis.

Once under the knife, doctors discovered one of these nerves was dangerously close to being severed completely. That would have been fatal - and it could have happened at any time.

"That was quite sobering, to realise how close we had got to it being a complete disaster. That would have been the end,” she said.

People donated from around the world - ranging from £1,000 at a time to one young girl who donated £1 from her pocket money.

Much of the money was raised thanks to the hard work of her friends and the local community, who held dozens of fundraisers.

Friends and the community rallied around to help raise the money Credit: ITV News

"Everyone was just so generous and kind, we did bag-packing in supermarkets and even strangers were coming up to us and asking how Jess was,” one friend, Alison Davis, said.

“The whole community came together - we’ve made friends by doing this. And it’s going to keep going. We’re now planning the next fundraiser for another charity.”

Another fundraiser, Debbie Walters, added: “It’s amazing to see her looking so well. The timeframe we had to do it in was really really tight. So to actually be able to do that was just an incredible thing."

Jess’s journey is not over yet - it will take months of physiotherapy before she’s fully back to normal. But the outlook is rosy - and instead of fearing for the future, she can now concentrate on normal things like celebrating her birthday.

A day she might not have reached without donations from more than 4,000 people.

Addressing everyone who helped, she said:

Thank you for giving me a future. That is literally what you've done. You've given me a life and a future which is what I would not have had otherwise.

There aren’t enough words in the English language to say thank you and to give that level of gratitude I don't think.

It's just thank you.

– Jessica Kill