"Fire the flopper."
August 27, 2013 6:01 PM   Subscribe

Coach Jerry Kill of the Minnesota Gophers battles the stigma of epilepsy.
posted by cellphone (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never noticed any stigma attached to epilepsy. Ever. I've had it since 1988.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:22 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I don't feel bad for me," says Kill, soon to be 52. "I feel bad for my wife, my kids and the people who have to watch it. ... You wake up and find out 50,000 people watched you. It's kind of embarrassing."

Yeah, I understand that. I was diagnosed with epilepsy a few months back after I had a seizure at work -- slammed my head on the desk on the way down and went into convulsions. I physically felt like crap for a while, but one of the worst things was knowing that I scared the hell out of everybody in my company. Coming back to the office is hard after everyone saw you leave on a stretcher, bleeding from the head.
posted by brundlefly at 6:22 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


My father was an epileptic he had to keep that secret for most of his life. As a young man he had to hide from the Eugenics laws in Pennsylvania that decreed sterilization for epilepsy. As a military officer in WW2 he had to keep it secret from the Army who considered it worthy of immediate medical discharge. As an Aerospace engineer after the war he had to keep it secret or lose his security clearance and livelihood.

Luckily he had a brother who was a doctor who treated him for it and kept the secret.
posted by shnarg at 7:02 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


My brother has a form of epilepsy. It is very well controlled, but very rarely he does still have a seizure. Every time he has a seizure, his license is suspended for 6 months. Luckily, he lives in a place where its only a suspension. In some places, thats an immediate loss, and requires you to retake the test after two years without a seizure. Other places, he'd never get it back. When he can't drive, he relies on friends or family to get to work. If he couldnt do that, he would no longer have a job.

I have microseizures, which I know would not cost me my license, but they went undiagnosed for years because my mom told me NEVER to tell anyone about them, else they'd take my license.

Ironmouth, I'd like to know where you live, so I can move there.
posted by strixus at 7:10 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, I'd like to know where you live, so I can move there.

Illinois and DC. As a person who has seizures, your brother should not be allowed to drive for six months. As a driver, I owe other drivers that. Epliepsy is a dangerous disease. I never underestimate that. I waited my six months and it was the right thing. You are more suceptible to further seizures soon after having one.

The rules against eplieptics driving are smart good policy, not some sort of discrimination. They protect the person who has seizures most of all.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:34 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, did you miss the rest of what I said there? About having it revoked permanently in some places, about potentially being fired because of not being able to drive to work, about the sorts of fear this creates? He knows the reason it exists, but that he could no longer have his job, or healthcare, or a home because of it? That is a problem.
posted by strixus at 7:38 PM on August 27, 2013


Ironmouth, did you miss the rest of what I said there? About having it revoked permanently in some places, about potentially being fired because of not being able to drive to work, about the sorts of fear this creates? He knows the reason it exists, but that he could no longer have his job, or healthcare, or a home because of it? That is a problem.

There is no state where that happens. All 50 states have laws that allow for some sort of epilepsy driving if the person can drive safely. I personally would never lie regarding a seizure disorder and driving, nor would I ever risk my life or the life of others without a doctor first clearing me to drive and making sure that I would not endanger others. This is a duty I owe everyone.

And I can get health insurance. But the idea that it is some sort of discrimination that epileptics have some driving restrictions. Having had seizures in the past and totally lost consciousness, let me assure you, such laws are necessary.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:56 PM on August 27, 2013


There are places in the world other than the US.

Leaving thread now.
posted by strixus at 8:03 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


In some jurisdictions the doctor makes the call on whether the person can drive, and that's better than a blanket ban that doesn't really take into account the nuances with every individual epilepsy case. I'm surprised you're painting with such broad strokes, IronMouth.
posted by cellphone at 8:06 PM on August 27, 2013


I've never noticed any stigma attached to epilepsy. Ever. I've had it since 1988.

How many seizures have you had while standing on the field in a stadium of 50,000 people and being broadcast on television?
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 PM on August 27, 2013


A neighbour had an attack while driving and plowed into a brick wall. She left three small children. Anyone with epilepsy has my sympathies - but please don't drive if it's medically contraindicated.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:23 PM on August 27, 2013


One unexpected benefit of my diagnosis is that now I can tell people that I don't have a drivers license without them looking at me like I have antlers or something.
posted by brundlefly at 9:01 PM on August 27, 2013


In some jurisdictions the doctor makes the call on whether the person can drive, and that's better than a blanket ban that doesn't really take into account the nuances with every individual epilepsy case. I'm surprised you're painting with such broad strokes, IronMouth.

I have to live it. This affects me directly. We know so little about epilepsy. The idea that there are all of these "nuances' to epilepsy is not backed up by what we know. 25 years later, they have no idea what caused mine. Even in cases where a head injury seems responsible, we don't really know much about the mechanism, or more importantly, how to predict when a seizure will happen..

More importantly, it takes a while to get medicine under control and to assure compliance. Not everything that has affected my life strongly is an outrage. I've lived with it. If it is under control, you can live with it. If it is not, you should not be driving, full stop.

Hopefully we will have a cure soon.

I've never noticed any stigma attached to epilepsy. Ever. I've had it since 1988.

How many seizures have you had while standing on the field in a stadium of 50,000 people and being broadcast on television?


Well if we are going to be getting all personal and discussing credentials, how many grand mal seizures have you ever had?

No one made this guy coach while living with untreated epilepsy. Sure some jerks are gonna say bad things, but truth be told, that's more a function of his performance and the stupidity of bros. He knows what it means and the guy seems to be able to make it work. So more power to him. Sounds like they found a medication for him that might work. It isn't easy to get under control.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:55 PM on August 27, 2013


This article was worth reading. Thanks for posting, cell phone.
posted by theora55 at 12:39 AM on August 28, 2013


Well if we are going to be getting all personal and discussing credentials, how many grand mal seizures have you ever had?

None. Your point?

No one made this guy coach while living with untreated epilepsy.

What makes you think he was untreated? That Mayo Clinic doctor may have been the last in a series of attempts, and he's still having seizures despite the alleged success of the regimen.

Sure some jerks are gonna say bad things... He knows what it means...

Kill works with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota specifically because, as he is quoted in the linked article, he is a high-profile epileptic and he is seeking to reduce the stigma. So yeah, I think he does know what it means.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm happy that no one has ever been creeped out at your epilepsy that you know of or said anything about it behind your back that you know of, or that it hasn't hindered your career that you know of. I hope you never do. But I think that dismissing the existence of any such stigma is, at best, snide.
posted by Etrigan at 3:11 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I think that dismissing the existence of any such stigma is, at best, snide.

My personal experience is that I've felt none in my 25 years with the disease. Since all of the negative things he's heard are from random fans of football, I think its more linked to the football side of things.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:02 AM on August 28, 2013


As a Gopher, I'd make a joke about the stigma of having a shitty football team, but I just don't care enough anymore.
posted by Think_Long at 5:23 AM on August 28, 2013


Since all of the negative things he's heard are from random fans of football, I think its more linked to the football side of things.

There were definitely articles in the university paper (which admittedly maybe shouldn't be held up for its great reporting) written from the assumption that a reasonable person would question whether Kill could do his job. I only read the paper when someone leaves it lying around the lounge, so I didn't follow this closely, but there was, at best, a decided lack of knowledge about epilepsy.

I would hazard the difference may have less to do with football and more to do with Kill being a public figure.*

*I'm not sure how big a public figure he is, admittedly. If you ask me three days from now who the football coach is, I'll have probably forgotten his name. But I am totally lacking in school spirit. But he's public enough in any case that even disinterested me sees speculation about his health.
posted by hoyland at 5:56 AM on August 28, 2013


But I think that dismissing the existence of any such stigma is, at best, snide.

My personal experience is that I've felt none in my 25 years with the disease.


Which is great, but your first comment in this thread was dismissive.

Since all of the negative things he's heard are from random fans of football, I think its more linked to the football side of things.

When even random idiots on Twitter can so readily use his epilepsy as a pejorative, it speaks to there being at least some vestige of stigma out there.
posted by Etrigan at 6:32 AM on August 28, 2013


Anyone who can use any physical or mental malady as a pejorative is an asshole.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:58 AM on August 28, 2013


A friend on mine I met while taking classes during the summer one year in college had epilepsy. They were not grand mal seizures, but Myoclonic seizures. She had one in the middle of class and was more than embarrassed, she was ashamed. I remember being shocked by her reaction to her seizure. So yes, people can be horribly embarrassed by things like this.
posted by Hactar at 8:28 AM on August 28, 2013


The Epilepsy Foundation's Legal Rights News Briefs page would indicate that there's still plenty of discrimination against people with epilepsy.
posted by jaguar at 11:31 AM on August 28, 2013


Ironmouth, I don't know what planet you live on, but grand mal seizures are not only physically exhausting and painful, but embarrassing as hell, and after a seizure or two in public no one looks at you except out of the corner of their eye from then on. Yes, unless you're living in your own cocoon or you're under such excellent control you don't have big old thrashing tonic-clonic/grand mal seizures anymore, you're just plain wrong.

Why don't you stop trying to claim such nonsense - that there's no stigma attached? Instead, just state that your own epilepsy hasn't caused you to feel stigmatized - apparently, you've been fortunate that way.

My sister had extremely difficult-to-control grand mal epilepsy and passed away when she was 27 of a combination of that disorder and Type 1 diabetes. I had petit mal seizures for many years and even those were incredibly embarrassing - they'd come one right on top of the other for a couple of hours at a time in the morning, usually while I was at school, and made it nearly impossible for me to function. Yes, it was awful. My sister, however, suffered so much as a pretty teen girl who would fall to the floor, thrash and kick and often bloody herself, chew her tongue to smithereens, lose bladder control, then fall into a postictal state, mouth open, often snoring loudly, for an hour or more after the seizure. This happened regularly, yet she had the courage to keep going to school and keep socializing as best she could; who do you suppose wanted to ask her to the prom? She'd fix her hair so nice every morning, wear nice clothes, be sweet to everyone, never knowing when she'd go down. She was in the Los Angeles Children's Hospital, some hospital in Dallas, and then finally received the best diagnosis and care at Stanford University; still, every single day was a struggle.

I had only a couple of grand mal seizures, both at home, right after I gave birth, but in one of them I threw my newborn infant across the living room from the kitchen when I was up at 2 AM getting a bottle ready for her; thank God she landed on the sofa, bounced a little, and then rolled off onto the floor. She was fine, but I wasn't. I was started - at last - on Dilantin and phenobarbital and eventually got control of both the petit mal and grand mal seizures. My sister wasn't so fortunate.

I worked with a friend at Kaiser Aerospace in California whose daughter was 11. She had epilepsy so badly she couldn't leave the house because the lights or sun blinking through trees or buildings would set off a seizure for her. Her Dad told me it was impossible for her to have friends and her life was very sad, even though her parents would have given their lives for her. I knew also the little girl's epilepsy had a profound effect on her parents' and siblings' lives from a social standpoint, also.

Don't even try to tell me that epilepsy has no stigma. I'm truly happy that it hasn't had that effect on you, but that's not the case for thousands - perhaps tens of thousands - of others.
posted by aryma at 10:47 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kill stretchered off the field at halftime.
posted by Etrigan at 11:06 AM on September 14, 2013


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