A fundraising benefit in support of an Irish American struck down with a rare disease will take place this coming Sunday, April 22, at St. Barnabas High School in the Bronx.

Last November, Pauline Fitzpatrick, 45, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an incurable autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the nervous system. While there is no known cure, treatment can help with the rare disorder which affects only one or two people per 100,000. 

As a result of the disease, Fitzpatrick became paralyzed and was hospitalized at Lawrence Hospital where she was placed on a respirator for two months. During her time in the intensive care unit she suffered a series of complications, including a stroke.

“The stroke was a major setback,” her sister Eileen told the Irish Voice.

“My parents and I didn’t miss a day when she was in the hospital,” Eileen remembers, adding that their other sister flew in from Ireland for the month of December to help out.

Fitzpatrick now requires long term rehabilitation -- physical, occupational and speech therapy to help her re-learn life’s basic skills, such as walking, talking and eating.

A former resident of Yonkers, Fitzpatrick now requires full-time care and lives with Eileen in Bedford Hills.

“We are hoping to raise enough money so we can continue with her therapy,” Eileen said.

“She is young, so hopefully with more intense therapy her recovery will be shortened.”

Fitzpatrick’s mother, Tess, a long-time Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann (CCE) member and set dancer, is from Co. Monaghan. Her father, Eamonn, originally from Co. Antrim, is a past president of the Eastchester Irish American Association and was a previous grand marshal of the Eastchester parade.

“It’s been a hell of a ride for them,” Eileen reflected. “They are being very strong for her, and my dad makes sure she has everything she needs.”

Before Fitzpatrick was struck down with the illness she lived an active life working as a nurse’s aide.

“She was very involved with her nieces and nephews,” Eileen added.

Currently, Fitzpatrick’s therapist comes to the house just once a week, but the family is hoping to increase her therapy in the future.

“Right now her balance is still off, she still needs a walker, but hopefully she will be soon walking with a cane,” Eileen said.

A stay-at-home mom, Eileen continues her own therapy with her sister when the professionals leave.

“I try to continue occupational therapy throughout the day getting her to help me fold clothes,” she says.

Being surrounded by Eileen’s three young children also helps Pauline’s progress.

“The motivation of my kids has really lifted her spirits,” Eileen said. “She enjoys watching the kids.”

Eileen said her sister has been overwhelmed and touched by her visitors.

“She has had quite a few visitors, relatives and friends, She loves to see familiar faces.  She really wants to thank everyone.”

Sunday’s fundraising event will include entertainment from Shilelagh Law, Jameson's Revenge, John Nolan, and the Pride of Mulvihill, Peter McKiernan and Jeannie Callahan, Broken Banjo Strings, stepdancers from the Hendry School of Irish Dance and the Narrowbacks. There will also be face painting, prizes, food, and beverages.

St. Barnabas is located at 425 East 240th Street in the Bronx. For further information contact Fiona Carbin at 347-964-6594 or email friendsofpauline@gmail.com.

Cash donations or checks payable to the Friends of Pauline Benefit Fund can be mailed to Pauline Fitzpatrick Fundraiser, 21 Fairview Avenue, Box 526 Tuckahoe, New York 10707. See more details on Facebook here.

Pauline FitzpatrickFamily Handout