By Martha Phillips Special to the Daily Sun Jul 1, 2018

Editor’s Note: Deanna Kirk has been accepted as a patient for stem cell treatment at The Stem Cell Institute in Panama City, Panama. This treatment is not available in the United States and is not covered by insurance. A GoFundMe account has been established on Facebook (and an account set up at Citizens National Bank) to help raise the necessary funds to make this trip and receive the treatment.

Those of us faithful to reading the paper have followed many of the ups and downs in reporter/columnist Deanna Kirk’s life, as she shares with us from time to time in her columns. We hear about her kiddos and grandkids, marriages and deaths, she even shares her faith as a Christian with us and she always writes about Melanoma awareness during Melanoma Awareness month. She and her husband, Will, are both Melanoma survivors. She became highly aware of the benefits of early detection after she lost her dad to Melanoma a few years back. While all of this sounds so personal, when you take a closer look, not much of it really is about Deanna herself.

The illness

It has taken some intense discussions and prayer to convince Deanna to open up about her pain and suffering in order to get treatment and hopefully relief. You see, Deanna was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Crohn’s disease in 2010 and somewhere along the way she began having horrible chronic migraines, and then the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. It is very common to be diagnosed with more than one autoimmune disease. The thing with autoimmune disease is that most of them are invisible and they never go away — you never get well. People really don’t know what to say, it’s always awkward.

“But you don’t look sick,” is probably the most awkward and common thing said to someone with an autoimmune disease. The other thing about autoimmune disease is that the symptoms are kind of like the waves on the ocean, with ebb and flow. One day you may feel like there is nothing wrong with you at all and you go all out and clean the whole house and mow the lawn. But inevitably the next day your symptoms will be so bad that you cannot get out of bed. This tends to make those around you think that you are “using” your disease as a “crutch” or that you “use” your disease to get out of working or going somewhere. People start to think you are faking.

Eventually, you do start “faking,” but you “fake” that you are OK. You “fake” that you feel fine, you learn to become a professional faker. With Crohn’s, you have all the issues listed above and then add to it the way this disease affects you. Crohn’s disease affects the digestive system. The digestive system starts with chewing of food and ends where paste is excreted from the body. The malfunction of the digestive system can leave a person “running” for the powder room with little to no notice. We’ve all had a little taste of this with a stomach bug, but imagine if it never went away! Add to that the chronic pain, fatigue, heat intolerance, etc. No wonder Deanna would rather keep the details to herself! Don’t be fooled when you see Deanna around town and she smiles and says “I’m fine.”


Deanna has been treated for these autoimmune diseases with traditional FDA approved medications, but not only are they expensive, they do not cure these diseases and some of the side effects are just as bad as the disease. Losing her hair in clumps and weight gain are just a couple of things she’s endured. Of course in Texas, heat intolerance is probably the worse and most life-altering symptom of all.

Deanna applied for and has been accepted as a patient for stem cell treatment at The Stem Cell Institute in Panama City, Panama. This treatment is not available in the United States and is not covered by insurance.

The Stem Cell Institute uses adult stem cells to treat autoimmune diseases and come from human umbilical cord tissue and are expanded at Medistem, Panama’s state of the art laboratory. These mesenchymal stem cells are recovered from donated umbilical cords and are subject to the highest levels of screening and only a small percentage pass the rigorous process.

Dr. Neil Riodan is quoted on The Stem Cell Institute’s website saying: “Through retrospective analysis of our cases, we’ve identified proteins and genes that allow us to screen several hundred umbilical cord donations to find the ones that we know are most effective. We only use these cells and we call them ‘golden cells,’” he said.

“We go through a very highly thorough screening process to find cells that we know have the best anti-inflammatory activity, the best immune modulating capacity, and the best ability to stimulate regeneration.”

The Stem Cell Institute is transparent with all of their research on their website and offer many testimonials from patients that have benefited from this treatment. Many of you have read newspaper articles or watched local news stories sharing the story of Sam Harrell, who was and is now again the head football coach for the Ennis Lions. Harrell received stem cell treatment in Panama for Multiple Sclerosis. Mel Gibson has done several interviews about the stem cell treatment his dad received and recounts how his dad came to the clinic in a wheel chair and was able to walk by the end of his treatment. These testimonials of high-profile people and those closer to home certainly make this treatment a coveted option.

The Best of the Best

The absolute best thing about Corsicana and Navarro County is how the community comes together when there is a need. It’s never just about the person, the disease, the tragedy … or the fundraiser. There is always so much that comes from this small community. It’s about human connection. A simple gesture for one person can be a life-changer for another. There is a story that floats around social media every so often about the nerdy high school kid that was cleaning out his locker and taking everything home. One of his peers noticed and offered to help carry all the books. This simple act of kindness altered the nerdy high school kid’s life forever. The story ends explaining the kid was planning to commit suicide and was cleaning out his locker so his family would not have to. And this act of caring changed his mind.

So many times in our community a fundraiser was held and Deanna was there, wrote the story and wore the T-shirt, and sometimes served food or sold tickets … Sharon Nabors, Wyatt Phillips, Cindy Douglas, Lelanie Petty, Brody Brunton, Dylan Barber, Lane Barton just to name a few. This town, this county is the best of the best!

Deanna has a GoFundMe account and there is a bank account at Citizens National Bank for donations. This treatment is expensive. The cost is around $25, 000 plus airfare and food. The goal is to raise $30,000 to cover everything. Currently, Deanna and Will, her husband, are obtaining their passports for the trip. The next step will be to send an $800 deposit to set her appointment, then will be airfare and the final payment a few weeks before treatment. Follow her GoFundMe on Facebook for updates along the way.


Martha Phillips is a certified health coach who also has Multiple Sclerosis. She is also a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.