Hennessey's Washington Bar may be closing its doors and switching owners by the end of the year, but that doesn't mean it's leaving without spreading a little cheer.
For one person, the funds hoped to be gained from an event there this Friday are a matter of life and death.
a fundraiser for Kerry O'Connor, will be held at Hennessey's from 6 to 10 p.m. A $20 donation will include food, a drink ticket and chances to win door prizes.
For nearly her entire life, 31-year-old Kerry O'Connor has had to learn to live with Type 1 Diabetes, the chronic form of the disease where there are high levels of glucose in the blood.
"She's been battling from the beginning," said mother Marily O'Connor, recently retired as an English teacher at Morristown High School.
While it has been a lifelong condition for O'Connor, in the past year that condition has gotten worse.
Last December, while decorating the Christmas tree with her husband, Bill, "she became unresponsive," Marily said. "Her blood sugar dropped dramatically. Her body did not give her any clues, so, she has not been able to work or drive since."
In some Type 1 diabetics, Marily notes, "nerves in your digestive tract begin to die in a sense." It's called Gastroparesis and it affects only about 10 percent of Type 1 diabetics. As a result, last March, a gastric pacemaker was implanted to relieve some symptoms, she said.
The solution: "Her doctors said you have to get a pancreas transplant or you will not survive," her mother said.
Kerry has interviewed at many hospitals throughout the United States. However, it was the University of Minnesota Medical Center—which performed the first pancreas replacement surgery in 1967—that has provided her the best hope at finding a donor.
It's a waiting game, however, as pancreas donations can only come from cadavers. "It has to be a situation where a person dies and the family is willing and there has to be a match," Marily said.
Should a donor be found and the surgery is a success, Kerry will have to stay in Minnesota for upwards of six-to-eight weeks—an additional, uninsured cost. Another big potential problem is since pancreas donations can only come from cadavers, "she may have to take more than one trip," Marily said. "It may be a match, but it may not be a good match."
Some of the costs for the procedure—estimated at about $250,000—won't be covered under insurance. Even once this is complete, doctors have already said Kerry will need a kidney transplant.
Family and friends have in response mobilized in support. In addition to the Friday fundraiser at Hennessey's, "Pennies for Pancreas, Hope for the Holidays" jars have been set up at several businesses in town, including Ginty's, 23 South, International Pottery, Anthony's Pizza, Del's Novelty and the Assumption School, where Kerry has taught Catachesis. Raffle campaigns for free stays at the Madison Hotel and Hyatt Morristown are planned to begin in January.
"So many people are so willing to help," Marily said. "People have just been great. People I don't even know have said they are sending a contribution."
Kerry O'Connor said she is extremely grateful for everything everyone has done to help her in this fight. "Everyone has shown such thoughtfulness to me and my family," she said. "As a nurse, I'm used to being in the position of caregiver; it's a bit hard to find myself in the opposite position. I don't have the words to express my thanks to the people who initiated the 'Spread the Merry for Kerry' fundraiser or to Mr. [Jim] Hennessey and his staff or to my friends and family for running with this idea to make it a great night.
"Everywhere I go, people want to be supportive," Kerry added.
"Spread the Merry for Kerry," a fundraiser for Kerry O'Connor, will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14 at Hennessey's Washington Bar in Morristown. .