September 20, 2012Since Lauren Parrott was diagnosed more than a decade ago with multiple sclerosis and pseudobulbar affect, it hasn't kept her from looking at the positive side of life.
"I'm a positive person. Thank God for that," the 28-year-old said. "I know so many who have MS who are negative and don't do so well. A diagnosis is not the end of the world. My goal is to always help other people."
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. Pseudobulbar affect is a disorder of emotional expression characterized by uncontrollable laughing and crying.
Parrott's way of helping people is through television and YouTube.
In her small office in the Grosse Pointe War Memorialís basement, Parrott oversees five decks of monitors so shows are constantly aired. photo by Ann Fouty.
Diagnosed with MS as a teenager, the Grosse Pointe Woods resident manages well with medication. At 23, she suffered a relaspe due to a culmination of three things — a car accident, the pressure of attending Michigan State University classes and working. It was then she decided to make a video to find other people with MS and post it on YouTube.
"I want to show them what is happening," she said.
That was 2007 and she has been making videos ever since, talking about symptoms and experiences to help other people. Her word has spread to 77 countries.
"With the videos, they (those afflicted with MS) know they are not alone," Parrott said. "They have an option to slow the progression of the disease. I'm a patient advocate. I want every person to be in the best condition they can be."
She wants people to know how her life changed from an active teenager to an adult handling the challenges of MS, coupled with pseudobulbar affect, yet still living a full life.
"I was active," Parrott said. "I used to run every day, sometimes twice a day."
Lauren Parrottís primary job at WMTV is editing the master tapes for shows. She has been an employee of WMTV for three years. photo by Ann Fouty.
When she was 16, her 17-year-old cousin was killed in an automobile accident.
"I was dealing with the emotions from that and I started having physical problems," Parrott said.
She was tripping and falling and was very emotional.
"Also, my body was going through changes and I didn't know what it was. I had an MRI and a spinal tap and was diagnosed with MS five days before graduation (from University Liggett School).
"How did it affect me? I was terrified," Parrott remembered. "I didn't know what MS was and I thought it was muscular dystrophy. I thought I would be confined to a wheelchair. I stopped running and being active. My left leg is weak.
"After the diagnosis, I gained 15 pounds. I learned to adapt. I used an elliptical and I lost the weight. As long as I take my medication, I can still live a normal life."
To maintain a normal life, Parrott entered MSU in August 2002 where she had to adapt to college life, moving from one side of campus to another and pacing herself.
"I used the bus," she said. "I didn't change my diet. I do have fatigue. When I'm tired, I sleep. In college I didn't have any classes at 8 a.m. If I stayed up to midnight or 1 a.m., the next day I slept in. I learned to listen to my body, to make an immediate decision," she said.
She went on to graduate from MSU earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication. In December, she will receive her master's degree in communications from Wayne State University. She fulfilled the requirements while a full-time employee of Grosse Pointe War Memorial's WMTV. You can see her program, "Things to Do at the War Memorial."
Television is a most comfortable venue for Parrott since she has been involved in media since age 10.
With her father, Michael, acting as the cameraman, elementary-aged Parrott went about town making "Young Viewpoint" for three years.
"Dad used to take me around to my interviews or on location. He held the camera," she said. "One of my first interviews was with the manager of Bruegger's Bagel, which had just opened."
Her show, "Parrott Talk," was aired on Grosse Pointe cable during her high school years, with her parents as producers.
"At MSU I was on a campus soap opera. I spent two years as an actress," she said with a laugh.
During Parrott's junior and senior years, she was a reporter for a local government access channel in Okemos reporting hard news.
She said she didn't find that as interesting as what she is doing at WMTV.
In 2005, at the age of 21, Parrott was an intern at Good Morning America.
"It was an incredible experience," she said.
Back in Grosse Pointe, Parrott has been one of three WMTV's employees for three years.
"I love what I do here. I love to interview people in the community, the classes they are teaching and lectures. My goal is to focus on the positive things.
"I would love to go national, on my terms. I do have limitations."
Parrott explains: Because WMTV has limited staff, each has to be proficient in all areas — filming, directing, interviewing, audio and editing.
After filming Mondays and Tuesdays, she said, she is exhausted. The rest of the week is editing the master tapes in her small office in the War Memorial's basement.
"There are five decks that are constantly running," she explained of how shows are aired.
Television may be Parrott's passion; maintaining a positive outlook for herself and others is her mission.
"I want people to know whatever challenge you are going through you can overcome. It is about attitude. I know from experience. I've been through a lot of devastating situations. I want people to know the difficulties can be overcome and you can keep going. You are not going to be happy 100 percent of the time but being positive is a lot better," she concluded.