by Steph Udale
Despite living in a country that provides healthcare free at the point of service, #cuts to the #NHS, have resulted in more people having to go private. While #GoFundMe has been utilised to raise funds for healthcare in the USA, it is now becoming popular in the #UK.
Despite living in a country that provides free healthcare at the point of service through the NHS, slow and methodical cuts to healthcare have meant that more people have no option but to go private – something which is not financially feasible for everyone. While GoFundMe has become a key fundraiser for healthcare in countries like the USA where medical attention costs thousands, it is growing in popularity in the UK. A key example of this phenomenon is Jak Francis, a young man from Newcastle, who crowdfunded a potentially life saving surgery with support from his local community and music scene. However, this fix has not turned out to be the answer to his prayers, and Jak is once again relying on a system that has failed him once before to regain some quality of life.
Jak suffers from multiple vascular compressions, in particular nutcracker syndrome and MALS, which compresses arteries and veins in the body leading to limited blood flow and severe pain. Despite having symptoms since his teen years, Jak was often dismissed by medical professionals as he looked healthy visually and his blood work would come back normal – no further testing was done until Jak himself funded them.
This is a common narrative for many people, particularly the young, who often feel they are dismissed due to a lack of visible symptoms and perceived health in favour of those who are older and have more physical symptoms. With the over-worked and under-funded nature of the NHS currently, it is not surprising that those who seem to be able to persevere are left to do so in an attempt to minimise the workload of the services they so desperately need. Despite efforts to see an NHS specialist, Jak’s condition was deemed not urgent enough and appointments never came, leading to Jak turning to his community to help him. Jak found his diagnosis overseas, and while you may think those results would push him up the NHS priority list, this was not the case. This is where the power of music and community becomes key.
In 2019/2020 Jak raised over £35,000 to have potentially life-saving surgery abroad to correct these compressions through multiple fundraising events including a tattoo drive, a sponsored head shave, and gigs like Northeast for Noel, alongside birthday fundraisers on Facebook. He has written music about his experience, expanding on his existing back catalogue of music as a solo artist and as part of groups like Ronin Clan. He has also been featured on local news and had articles written about his journey in multiple newspapers. While the surgery has technically been a success, he now faces complications from the stents that are correcting his blood flow and Jak has had further battles with the NHS. He has been back and forth to A&E, being dismissed continuously despite his health being unstable. He is young. The young power through.
Jak has been able to meet with specialists in London in 2021 and had some testing done to ascertain why these complications have arisen. The surgery was high risk and did not guarantee a return to his original quality of life, but it was hope. Instead, it has pushed him further back in many ways. It has left him with scar tissue that is causing multiple issues, along with his plastic stents causing nerve inflammation – believed to be the cause of his seemingly random symptoms that have had him taken to the hospital countless times. Recently, Jak was told that there is little to nothing that can be done to help him and has been discharged from the care of the NHS. Jak’s new focus is to reclaim his life after living with this illness for over 4 years, focusing on pain management, living his life the way he wants to, with dignity and incredible mental strength. He is also finding hope with other surgical options, again abroad, and has recently re-launched his GoFundMe campaign to once again try and get back to the stage and back to ‘normal’ life.
This is by far not the only case of crowdfunding healthcare in the UK, but it’s one I myself have followed from the beginning as I have seen Jak perform on stage many times before his illness took hold. The North East alternative music scene is a strong one of support and family, and we stand by our own. Going from seeing Jak backflip off stage, having such energy performing and being a trainer in a gym who enjoyed free running, to dealing with debilitating chronic pain daily is a stark reality. And it’s a reality many people silently face.
The NHS struggles to care for its people. That is clear. And the people suffer because of it.
You can donate to Jak’s GoFundMe here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/give-jak-his-life-back
Alternatively, you can support him by streaming his music: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3mlX1HLKu2f84g6GfkFG3a?si=jQrEn7CgRyONao9nWQOzkw
Or support his clothing business: https://www.facebook.com/I-R-V-R-N-T--637504026680749/