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Woman fights and lives with rare disease

July 16, 2011
By Beth Christian Broschart - Special to The Inter-Mountain , The Inter-Mountain

Kelly Fletcher Shuppe had what she called "a wonderful life"-an upbringing in Elkins surrounded by the "majestic mountains," the career she had dreamed of, and a "fantastic family." Then in 2000, everything went numb-literally.

Shuppe attended Randolph County Schools, serving proudly as the drum major for the Elkins High School band, leading them through many parades as they won numerous awards.

She attended West Virginia University School of Nursing, earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 1985.

Article Photos

Special to The Inter-Mountain, Beth Broschart
Kelly Shuppe sits with her dogs Jewlz and Jayd near a birdfeeder given to her by her stepfather, Glenn Goodwin. ‘Randolph County is a wonderful place full of wonderful people who care for one another,’ Shuppe said.

Her career took off as she worked in the pediatric special care unit and as a nurse manager in the OB/newborn nursery at WVU Hospital and Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Later, while serving as a Monongalia County Health Department nurse, she worked toward her graduate/master's degree in family resources and childhood education and counseling.

Shuppe also married the love of her live, Joe Shuppe.

Fact Box

What is


According to, "Neuropathy is a disease that affects the nervous system and can cause a person to have a loss of sensations while creating a whole new set of painful sensations such as tingling, burning and numbness in the hands and feet. A person suffering with neuropathy may not be able to sense when something is hot or cold or causing their body pain.

In 2000, she began experiencing physical symptoms that puzzled her and several doctors, and eventually left her unable to function in the life she knew.

"I began having numbness in my right toes and foot," said Shuppe. "Rather than get better, it started going up my thigh and then started in the other foot and leg."

She sought the advice of a neurologist and had multiple tests including blood work, spinal taps, CAT scans and MRIs.

The only thing she learned was that she had neuropathy. The doctors told her they were unsure what caused it.

"When you are not well, it is very frustrating, but when you are not well and are not sure what is really wrong, what is causing it or how to make it go away, it is even more frustrating," said Shuppe.

A referral to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, revealed the same results. Shuppe has neuropathy and they did not know what is causing it or how far it may progress.

While Shuppe was focusing on coming to terms with her diagnosis, a new crisis was thrown into her path. Her father passed away unexpectedly in February 2002.

"My father was the rock in my life and he taught me many valuable lessons," said Shuppe. "Even though he's been gone for a number of years, those lessons resonate in my mind, and it's like he is still here helping me through this."

The next year, Shuppe and her husband left Morgantown and moved back to Randolph County to be closer to her family. Shuppe did not work, nor did she drive.

"I applied for Social Security Disability and I knew that it was right to do so, but I knew I would never qualify," said Shuppe.

"Looking back, I am glad I was denied because it pushed me toward the realization that I would not let this neuropathy get the best of me and I knew that some day, I would be able to go back to work."

It was the story of a young man confined to a wheelchair that gave her the courage to start a rehabilitation plan.

"I found an article in The Inter-Mountain that really served as an inspiration to me," said Shuppe. "I cut out the article and put it on my bedroom mirror-I read it over and over and over again."

The article was about a young man from the Tygart Valley who was being helped by the Division of Rehabilitation Services. He had been trained in computers and was working for a health care clinic in Mill Creek.

"I found so much inspiration in the fact that this person had no use of his legs and my use is only limited," said Shuppe. "I knew if he could go back to work, then so could I."

Shuppe contacted the Division of Rehabilitation Services and they, along with her doctors, helped her map out a plan to "get her back on her feet."

Shuppe has had therapy, braces and surgery. She has worked very hard with a goal in sight, and today she can walk and is able to drive.

"Doctors are surprised that I have made so much progress and they are very proud of my determination," said Shuppe.

"My greatest fans and supporters are my family - my mother, Patty Fletcher Goodwin; my stepfather, Glenn Goodwin; my sister, Leigh Fletcher; my brother, Mike and wife, Kellie Elizabeth; my nephews, Reece and Oliver; and, of course, my husband, Joe."

Classes offered through the Division of Rehabilitation Services have also brought her current on her computer skills.

"I am not sure what the perfect job for me is but I am searching for it," said Shuppe.

At this time, there is no known cure for neuropathy. One of the worst symptoms is pain.

"Neuropathy has tried to get the best of me, but it has really just given me a second chance at life," said Shuppe.

"I find myself back home, surrounded by my family and the people I love, and I am pushing 50 and starting over," she said.

Shuppe feels her life is like a journey.

"I got my education, I had my dream job and now I cannot do that any longer," said Shuppe. "I am slowly by God's hand and others being healed, and I hope my journey and my story can influence someone out there as much as the story of the young man influenced me."

"Never give up," said Shuppe. "If you want something you need to get out there, make a new goal, take the good with the bad, and fight to attain everything you want out of life."



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