Wandering away from the topic of writing yet again, let’s talk about something some people really don’t want to: epilepsy.
Full disclosure: yep, I am one of the millions of people in America who has epilepsy. Had it for longer than I can remember, and at this point in my life it is simply another descriptor: woman, writer, short, clumsy, Christian, epileptic. Oh well.
I’m not trying to be blasé about this, on the contrary: Epilepsy needs to be thought of as something more than a scary thing whispered about and hidden away. That is why I’d like to bring up an event that happened in Minnesota this past weekend.
The coach of the University of Minnesota’s football team, Coach Jerry Kill, had a seizure on the sidelines during a game. People were frightened, people didn’t know what to do, and other people found it a time to make ignorant comments and jokes.
For Coach Kill this was not a new thing. He is a spokesman for the local Epilepsy Foundation, volunteering at their camps for kids and doing other work. He has helped children and adults see that having epilepsy does not mean that we are unable to achieve.
“It’s really about having a good, positive attitude and making sure you can do what you want to do,” Kill was quoted in the Star Tribune as telling kids at Camp Oz, a camp for kids with seizures, earlier this summer.
But does the public see things that way? No.
Think about this: when was the last time you heard about a celebrity with an autistic child, or with cancer, or Parkinson’s, who was mad fun of? They are held up as a great example of working through something with bravery and resolve—as they should be!
But Kelly Osborne has a seizure and she is made fun of on Twitter, and there isn’t any other mention of her. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has had multiple seizures (the definition of having epilepsy is having multiple, recurrent seizures) yet there is no talk of his issues.
And as for Coach Kill? There were some who say he shouldn’t be coaching any longer. Why? Well, he has epilepsy that’s why!
“People with epilepsy make what happens between their seizures count,” the Epilepsy Foundation said in a release. “Life involves risks and stepping up to adversity. If we follow the logic of those who fear injury or bad outcomes, we might as well sideline the entire sport of football. If football ended, we would lose in Coach Kill a role model who inspires every time he steps on the field.”
Should Coach Kill, or I, be airline pilots—No. Coach football? Well, Kill can but not me! But if a person with epilepsy wants to be a politician, or an actor, or a writer, then we can. Saying that our disorder makes us less able is plain ignorance: no one would tell a diabetic not to pursue music (B.B. King, Gladys Knight, etc.).
So I hope people will support Coach Kill, and all the other folks out there who have epilepsy.
By the way, the winning touchdown in the Atlanta Falcons game this past week was made by Jason Snelling—who has epilepsy.