Apples to apples: One woman’s determination to help others is working on a global scale

Suffering from a rare autoimmune arthritis isn’t stopping this patient from reaching out to those in Pakistan who have the same condition.

Matt Cowan is a staff reporter for Ragan Communications.

Jennifer Visscher takes the mantra, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” quite seriously.

She’s spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness for Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), an uncommon, chronic autoimmune arthritis, by focusing on a painting project called “Art Apple a Day for AS” that centers on apples.

In this project, Visscher creates a unique piece of art that always features apples in some capacity. Through her daily blog, Visscher hopes to raise enough awareness about AS, so that a cure can found.

Visscher is among the 33 million people worldwide who suffer from AS. If untreated, it can cause the patient’s spine to painfully fuse together. Currently, treatment to manage the condition is available, but there is no known cure.

Now, with 100 days remaining in the campaign, Visscher has announced a new fundraising initiative geared towards educating doctors in Pakistan about AS.

Why Pakistan? Well, the country and its people are closely tied to Visscher and her family. Her brother is married to a woman from Pakistan. Visscher also happens to have two Pakistani nephews. In addition, there’s little information about AS available in the country and medical costs for treatment can be upwards of 10 times the average Pakistani’s salary.

Through Twitter, Visscher is hoping to raise enough money to send a team of specialists overseas to help set up an educational training center designed to raise awareness among medical professionals in Pakistan about AS and the debilitating effects it can have if left untreated.

Visscher believes that because there 200 million Twitter accounts, there’s a good chance a handful of them can make simple $1 donations that’ll not only raise funds, but also awareness for AS, her art project, and the health care plight in Pakistan.

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