The four years prior to COVID was a happy time for Kate Lee O’Connor. The talented young vocalist and fiddler was just graduating from Belmont University and planning a wedding to her soulmate, Forrest O’Connor. The two had gone from a startup acoustic duo, Wisewater, to members of The O’Connor Family Band, along with Forrest’s dad, fiddle virtuoso Mark O’Connor, and his wife, Maggie, also a very skilled violinist.
Kate became the talk of the bluegrass and Americana music world for her live and recorded performances with the band, for whom she was the primary singer. Their music videos were quite popular with a wide audience, and The O’Connor Family won the 2017 Best Bluegrass Album Grammy for Coming Home.
We had followed Kate’s career with some relish, as we first met her while she was still in high school, and she wrote a number of articles for us from the perspective of a young person already dedicated to a career in bluegrass music at such a young age. We shared her joy as she excelled in college, and covered the plans for a solo album back in 2012 and her wedding in 2017. As we all approached the year 2020, one might say that the young Mrs. O’Connor was on top of the world.
Then in June of that year, while the world was shut down, Kate’s doctor had her come off of a medication she had taken since she was a child, which led to a sever case of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome, and a increase in obsessive behavior which the medication had been effectively controlling for years. New medications were tried, but she experienced all sorts of disturbing symptoms, including anxiety spikes, tremors, and depression which required a number of hospital stays over the ensuing two and a half years.
According to Forrest, who has launched a GoFundMe page to help he and Kate cope with the many medical expenses they have accumulated, she had worked her way back to health, and was strong enough to resume a performing schedule when she suffered another major setback in May of this year. On top of a return of the symptoms described above, she was also experiencing extreme nausea, physical illness, and sleep deprivation, and returned to hospital for several weeks.
As her condition worsened, Kate attempted suicide in September, and while she was revived, she remained unresponsive for 24 hours, during which time her physicians were quite concerned about organ damage. Much of the next two months were spent in the hospital in Nashville, requiring multiple surgeries for localized blood pressure issues. In short, she has been quite ill and faces a long and demanding recovery.
Kate O’Connor is a lovely young woman, and unusually talented. Her husband is understandably concerned about her well being, and how they will survive financially during this time. He says that they already have accumulated $200,000 in medical bills over this past two months, and are facing therapy costs of roughly $500/week going forward.
Forrest is asking that anyone who has enjoyed their music please consider making a donation through GoFundMe. Donations can be processed via any major credit card or PayPal online.
He says that with some time for recovery, they hope to see Kate back on stage performing again, and shared this video they recorded to promote a new duo project they were expecting to release with Compass Records before she became so sick. Let’s all hope to see Kate Lee O’Connor return to full strength soon, and get to hear their new music.
Get well soon, Kate!