In a case of extreme hoarding, a Chicago couple is in critical condition after authorities found them buried under mounds of their own junk.
Jesse Gaston, 76, and his wife Thelma, 79, were discovered by Chicago police who were called in by a neighbor to do a well-being check, after it was reported that the Gastons had not been heard from in some time.
"The fire department made a forced entry into the residence, which was covered with debris and garbage," said Chicago Police Officer Michael Fitzpatrick. "Firemen put hazmat suits on to enter and upon doing so discovered two individuals still alive."
Neighbors had reported smelling a foul odor coming from the Gaston's home, which is located on the south side of Chicago, said Fitzpatrick.
"I've never heard of this kind of thing happening quite to this extent," said Fitzpatrick.
Rosie Funches, the sister of Jesse Gaston, declined to comment when reached by phone by ABCNews.com, but told ABC News' Chicago affiliate WLS that she regrets not calling the police three weeks ago, when she first started to wonder where they might be.
"I wish I did something about it. I wish I went over there and got Jesse and Thelma out of the building," Funches told WLS. "There's no reason whatsoever to live like that. They could have paid somebody to keep their house, pay somebody to do the yard and everything else...it breaks my heart."
Gaston is a college-educated Chemist, according to Funches, and his wife is a retired school teacher.
Neighbor Andrea Adams told WLS that the couple "looked like skeletons" when they emerged from the home with the help of officials.
"The rubbish had fell on her. And he was trying to rescue her, and it fell on him. And so they had been like that, in that position for like the past three weeks," she said.
Dr. Jamie Feusner of the University of California-Los Angeles told ABC News' Nightline in a previous interview that hoarding is considered to be associated with OCD.
"Hoarding, or compulsive hoarding syndrome as some people call it, is a condition that is thought to be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder," said Feusner. "And this is a really severe problem that actually affects quite a bit of the population. It's probably about 2-5 percent of the population have this problem."
Feusner said simply helping hoarders clean up isn't the answer.
"This is something where these people really have no ability to get rid of [things], and when you talk to them, you'll find that it's not so easy as, 'Oh, they just haven't had the time or they've been putting it off or they just got busy and these things piled up,'" he said. "They really have difficulty throwing away every little thing that most people would consider trash."