Multiple sclerosis has brought new limits to Deanna Kirkpatrick's life, but it hasn't changed the East Wenatchee resident's ability to communicate. She and two other people with MS produce podcasts about the disease.
EAST WENATCHEE — Deanna Kirkpatrick spends 80 percent of her days in bed or in a recliner. She walks short distances with a cane.
Multiple sclerosis has mostly condensed her world to a small apartment in East Wenatchee, Douglas County. Once an avid skier, runner, softball player, Seattle radio host and pharmaceutical sales representative, she’s lost her job and her lifestyle to the disease.
What she hasn’t lost is her ability to communicate.
The 45-year-old’s voice has gone global.
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The podcasts on multiple sclerosis that she produces with two others with MS have been listened to 17,000 times in the past year, she said. They draw listeners from as far as Australia, Japan, Germany, Italy and India.
The shows have been picked by Blog Talk Radio, which calls itself one of the largest platforms for Internet radio, as a featured production.
“I love it,” Kirkpatrick says. “The show has just given me a passion for helping other people. I’ve lost my health and my career, and a lot of loss happens when you’re diagnosed with a chronic disease. But there are blessings that come out of this. I’m here to say, there are opportunities to help yourself and other people.”
She and her two MS friends create podcasts under the name Multiple Sclerosis Unplugged. They interview researchers, physicians, MS patients and others knowledgeable about the disease for the one-hour show.
Her mediums are her laptop and her phone.
“I usually have a cup of coffee next to me, my reading glasses on and the phone up to my ear,” she said. “I have a cat in my lap and a dog on the side of me and I’m doing this show from the comfort of my living room.”
Kirkpatrick grew up in Wenatchee and was drum major for the Golden Apple Marching Band in 1986, the year she graduated from Wenatchee High School. She went on to graduate from Washington State University with a degree in communications and worked for 10 years as a radio host in the Seattle area.
In 2000, she switched careers to become a pharmaceutical sales representative and worked in that field until 2006. That year, she suffered a paralyzing episode and was, about a year later, diagnosed with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.
“At first, I was optimistic that I would be the exception to the rule, that I would still be that girl skiing and climbing the mountain and bike riding,” she said.
Gradually, though, she realized that the disease was making her dreams impossible.
“The last two years, the disease has been very aggressive,” she said. “To be only six years in and be 80 percent bedridden is not good.”
In June, she moved from the Seattle area to East Wenatchee to be closer to her family. A few months before that, she was researching MS on Facebook and found Stuart Schlossman from Florida and Amy Gurowitz from New Jersey. Within days, they agreed to partner on an Internet radio show.
“We’ve never met face to face, yet we produce these podcasts together and you’d think we’d known each other for years.”
Kirkpatrick said she thought the audio portion of the Internet was the perfect way to connect MS sufferers. Many have lost all or part of their vision to the disease.
“I know my eyes go blurry for hours or for up to a day and I can’t really read anything, but I can certainly listen,” she said.
The three, who work as unpaid volunteers, do an hourlong show once or twice a month. They always interview an expert or someone with the disease, and topics range from treatment to medications to how sufferers can afford health care.
Kirkpatrick wants to do as many shows as she can for as long as she can. She is hoping to to have stem-cell treatment in 2013 that may help her condition.
“I used to be very active, so if I could have that again, even for a few years, that would be a huge blessing,” she said.
She said she considers it a blessing that she can combine her radio-host experience with her knowledge about pharmaceuticals and ask intelligent questions on the podcasts.
“It really is much more of a God thing, than a me thing,” Kirkpatrick said. “Everything has just lined up perfectly so I am now a patient and can be a voice for other patients and help them get the information they are looking for and the answers to their questions.”