OCSD employee won’t let recent health diagnosis stop her from proudly walking on


If at first you don’t succeed, fix your ponytail and try again

Deena Fulghum has that slogan hanging up in her office in the Communication and Technology division of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

It’s a particularly fitting slogan for Fulghum, a mother of a 5-year-old boy who used to work for the retailer Vans but who for years sought a job with regular hours.

She applied for positions at the OCSD no less than 28 times before finally landing the job of Storekeeper II (warehouse supervisor) in the agency’s Communication and Technology division in August 2016.

“My boss and I always joke, ‘The 28th time’s a charm,’” says Fulghum, referring to Administrative Manager Delia Kraft.

Deena Fulghum of the OCSD’s Communications and Technology division, right, with her mother, Lynn Wolfe, a communications technician who works in the same department. Both will participate in the Walk MS event on April 7 in Irvine.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Now, Fulghum faces a different challenge that is keeping the self-described perfectionist on her A game — and, yes, without a hair being out of place in her omnipresent ponytail.

On Feb. 24, 2017, Fulghum, 31, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She has formed a team that will participate in the Walk MS at the Great Park in Irvine on April 7 to raise money and awareness for the unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system.

The cause of MS, which disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the body, remains a mystery, and there’s no cure.

Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20 and 50, and women are two to three times more likely than men to be diagnosed.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I wanted to say I was just a tired mom,” Fulghum says of symptoms, including numbness in her right leg, that began in October 2016, just two months into her career at the OCSD.

“If I can get just one person to keep seeing (doctors) if things don’t feel right, that would be a victory,” Fulghum says.

MS, a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves, can’t be diagnosed without doctors first ruling everything else out. And it took a while for Fulghum to get her diagnosis and get on medication to treat the mysterious disease.

Persistence was the key.

Fulghum hopes the Walk MS event will further boost awareness about multiple sclerosis and raise money for research.

She said the OCSD has been more than understanding of her medical needs and is hugely supportive of her, including Division Director Dave Fontneau, who is one of more than a dozen supporters who will be walking five miles with Fulghum at the April 7 fund-raiser.

Deena Fulghum designed these hats for members of her “Weenie Warrior Tribe” walking team. Photo courtesy of Deena Fulghum

Also on her team is her son, Olliver, and her boyfriend, Rigo Lopez, who works in industrial construction.

Fulghum’s team, Weenie’s Warrior Tribe, is both a play on her childhood nickname (Deenie Weenie) and a nod to her Native American heritage.

Fulghum’s mother, Lynn Wolfe, is of Cherokee heritage. Thirteen years ago, Wolfe started working in the warehouse her daughter now manages. Wolfe now is a communications technician II for the OCSD’s Communication and Technology division.

The division, located in Orange, manages the operation of the 800 MHz Countywide Coordinated Communications System (CCCS) for all local public safety agencies (law enforcement, fire, paramedics, lifeguards) and for general government 24/7.

On her MS Walk team page, Fulghum writes:

Deena Fulghum gives her mother, Lynn Wolfe, a piggyback ride at work. Photo courtesy of Deena Fulghum

Rather than seeing this diagnosis as any kind of sentence, I’ve tried to look at it as a reminder to slow down…to not get so stressed or caught up in the little things that won’t matter in two weeks, much less, two years…I am fortunate to have been diagnosed young, and with a promising prognosis so long as treatment and MRIs continue to bring me good news.  

Fulghum, who grew up in Garden Grove, initially wanted to be a probation officer, but a part-time job in retail while she went to Cal State Long Beach turned into a post-college career.

She became a single mother in June 2015, when her son was 2.

When doctors diagnosed her with MS, they told Fulghum she had three active lesions in her cervical spine (in the neck) and nine inactive lesions in her brain.

She has relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis, meaning that despite medications, every two years or so she will relapse and experience such symptoms as muscle spasms, shooting pains on the side of her head and in her brain. At times, she will stumble over words or have trouble reading signs.

Photo courtesy of Deena Fulghum

Fulghum gets MRIs every six months. And every Friday afternoon, she has to get a muscular injection that tires her out for the weekend with flu-like symptoms.

For the upcoming race, Fulghum made hats for her team with a dream catcher design, since it’s her dream that a cure for MS one day will be found.

“I hope I get through it,” she says of the run. “But really, it’s just a day to raise awareness and money for MS.”

Walk MS info

Date: April 7, 2018

Start/Finish Location: Orange County Great Park – 6990 Marine Way, Irvine, CA 92618

Time: Check-in opens at 7 a.m.; Walk begins at 8 a.m.

For more information, click here