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The kindness of strangers smashes £30,000 target for Jo

The compassion of the human spirit has been exemplified overnight.

Incredibly, several thousand pounds were pledged for the Breathe for Jo campaign last night.

Former Exeter College student Jo Smith, 36, who is suffering from two terminal illnesses, has pledged her heartfelt thanks to generous Echo readers and others who have donated more than £30,000 in just two weeks to help pay for medical treatment in Thailand which could save her life.

The surge in kindness followed the tragic announcement via the Echo yesterday evening, that a fundraising music festival for the mum-of-one who lives near Honiton, had to be postponed because her health is deteriorating so rapidly, she needs imminent treatment.

breath for joIn under two weeks, a staggering £20,000 was raised for the campaign which was set up by Jo’s best friend Sarah Lacey, 36, and launched via the Echo on April 10, to raise an ambitious £30,000 in 30 days.

Jo is suffering from rare heart and lung disease pulmonary hypertension (PH) and lymphatic cancer. She is thought to be the only person in the world with these two diseases which she cannot receive treatment for: Jo is caught in a devastating catch-22 situation – she cannot undergo treatment for the cancer because of the risk to her heart and lungs which have been weakened by the PH.

Neither can she be put on a waiting list for a heart and lung transplant, because she has cancer.

This week specialist PH doctors at Hammersmith Hospital in London ran tests which found that the disease had significantly advanced and devastatingly, they also discovered a five centimetre wide mass where she originally had a huge tumour removed.

But Jo cannot have, what is thought to be another tumour, removed because she will have a 50/50 chance of surviving the operation due to her PH.

She already took this risk when the first tumour was discovered and she made a promise to herself and her son Rudey, that she would never take such a heinous chance again.

Jo’s only lifeline is a doctor at the Better Being Hospital in Bangkok who is pioneering a type of immunotherapy treatment which could cure her cancer and halt the PH – but with the rapid deterioration of her health, she needs to get out there as soon as possible.

On their return from London yesterday, Jo and Sarah made the desperately sad decision to postpone Breathe Fest which was due to take place in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens this July, in order to get Jo out to the Far East as soon as the funds pledged via the Just Giving page are released on May 9.

The target was set at £20,000, the estimated amount to cover the cost of treatment, because in order for the funds to be released, the target has to be reached in the time limit of 30 days.

But the real target has always been £30,000 because of the travel expenses and potential additional treatment costs involved.

On announcing the decision to postpone the festival last night, Jo and Sarah issued a desperate appeal to raise the remainder of the £30,000 target – and Echo readers and many others rose to the challenge and responded with immediate compassion.

Jo said: “I don’t know how it is possible to even come close to adequately expressing my eternal gratitude to so many people who have just made it possible for me to go to Thailand for treatment that could save my life.

“I would like to thank the Express & Echo for their continuous support, reporting my story so sensitively and publishing the Breathe for Jo campaign and making this even possible.

“For my lovely friends, family and strangers who donated so much money in such a short space of time, sent me messages of love and support, shared my story and offered to help…you are amazing, kind and generous.

“I feel so overwhelmed, it really means the world to me and from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

“And especially to Sarah, who is so determined to get me better, I am so so lucky to have such an incredible friend who is there for me every step of the way.

“I may be having a tough time, but it doesn’t feel so daunting now.

“I feel incredibly lucky and very optimistic about what the future now holds for me!”

Sarah, added: “I’m not sure that everyone in the world is ever lucky enough to have a friend as wonderful as Jo – I don’t go one second without thinking how lucky I am to be her best friend!

“There are no words to express our gratitude to everyone that has supported our campaign.

“It has restored my faith in humanity, we WILL get Jo fit and healthy and every single person that supported us made that possible.

“THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER!”

To donate visit, https://www.justgiving.com/yimby/breatheforjocampaign#/active

Exeter Express

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