Trapped behind a glass wall, Amelia Hill can only sit and watch as the days, months and years pass her by.In the last three years she's been isolated, unable to leave a tiny room, and says the slightest breath of air from the outside world could cause her to collapse, and even die.
Eight years ago Amelia was a vibrant, young fashion designer, writer and magazine stylist. She had big dreams of travelling to New York and writing for US Vogue.
“Things were just taking off, and she was so full of life, and you know so hopeful, and suddenly this is what's happened to her, and it's just all come crashing down,” Amelia's mother Danja said.
Danja has watched helplessly as her daughter succumbed to the mysterious condition.
“She’s been to so many specialists who just don't know, they just haven't got an answer. They're baffled, so that's been very disheartening and very frightening,” Danja said.
Many initially diagnosed her with chronic fatigue, some people even accused her of faking it, but only in recent years has her condition become recognised in Australia.
Amelia suffers from an environmental illness called MCS or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity – and she's not alone.
It's believed up to six per cent of Australians have an allergic response to chemicals that surround us in the modern world.
Some sufferers get headaches or nausea, but for Amelia the slightest exposure brings on an extreme reaction. Her condition has led to reactive airway disease, intolerances to foods, and anaphylactic seizures.
“For the average person, your system will metabolise toxins that you breathe in, or that are on your skin, and you can excrete them. We’ve found that Amelia has a genetic marker, which means her body does not metabolise toxins or excrete them,” Danja explained.
Researchers in Canada and the US suggest MCS begins with a chemical injury, and Danija believes Amelia's injury was triggered in the late 80s when their family home was sprayed for termites. “She feels very down, very distressed,” Danja said.
Amelia's family has turned to natural therapies for answers, but the only way she'll really recover is by moving to a safer place – a home away from chemicals and mould.
Peter Evans, also an MCS sufferer, heads the South Australian Taskforce on MCS, and says finding suitable housing is the biggest challenge.
“People on the severe end of the spectrum end up without accommodation. They're living in tents, in caravans, out in the middle of nowhere, with no support and no electricity. Living in people's verandas, in the backs of cars, they don't have access to healthcare because healthcare services have a lot of chemicals in there,” Evans said.
“It is possible to build these places, and it's not too expensive – mainly it’s things that are un-reactive, so cement, glass, metal.”
And that's also why Amelia is telling her story – to give others a voice.