Insurance won't cover life-saving surgery for woman's rare disease

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Imagine being hungry, but not being able to eat because your body can't digest food. One Hancock County woman who suffers from a rare stomach disease lives with that painful problem daily. And she says surgery that could help her get better is being denied.

Kerrie Cherry looks through a pile of medical records she's compiled since she was diagnosed with Gastroparesis two years ago.

"It kind of feels like somebody is ripping your insides out of you," Cherry said. "And nothing stays in you, no water, no nothing."

Her symptoms have gotten progressively worse and her doctors have told her she could starve to death.

"I could eat one bite and then I would feel full. That's how it kind of started, and then it progressed about six months ago where I can't keep anything down. Everything is regurgitated back up."

Cherry has lost 48 pounds in the past six months, going from 130 pounds to just 82 pounds.

"I don't like the way I look, for one. For two, my quality of life has literally gone down. I have a five-year-old son and I can't do anything with him because I'm always tired," explained Cherry.

Her doctors say there is a device that can be implanted in her abdomen that could save her life. It's a Gastric stimulator, similar to a pacemaker for the heart.

"It's a neurological stimulator for my stomach to cut down the nausea and also my chronic vomiting," said Cherry.

The trouble is her health insurance provider will not pay for the surgery.

"They are saying that there's not enough evidence and it's not in my, quote, plan, according to them. It wasn't in my plan either to get this disease. so I'm in the same boat they are. I'm starting to get malnutrition too and they also declined my feeding tube. So I feel hurt and betrayed by my own insurance company. It's like, why even have insurance if they are not going to cover it?"

The surgery costs $70,000. Friends and her family hope to raise the funds they say will save their loved ones' life.

Kimberly Feigel is her sister.

"We have several people who have reached out to us to put some fundraisers together. We plan to do some corn hole tournaments, maybe some yard sales, a 5-K run. Somebody in Bay St. Louis is working on that," Feigel said. "If she doesn't get this procedure done, they have put a time frame on how long she can be here, and she has a child and a family to take care of, of her own."

You can make a cash donation at look for "The Cherry Tree Project." Here's a direct link to the project:

Her first fund-raising event will be held Saturday, June 21 at LiL Joe's Seafood Restaurant in the Depot District of Bay St. Louis. It will be a Corn-Hole Tournament starting at 1pm.

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