Category: Falling Down Funny BookMark HawkinsSeizuresUncategorized Comments: 5 comments

Several people sent me articles last week about a seizure that University of Minnesota Football Coach Jerry Kill suffered while the Golden Gophers were playing Western Illinois University.  It was the third time he had suffered a seizure during a game as head coach of the program in three years.  As a result of that episode he missed the second half of that game after being taken to the hospital.


Usually I would not have paid all that much attention to this story.  First of all, I am not that much of a sports fan anymore.  I found the story interesting from the seizure angle, but then a person having a seizure only holds so much interest for me.  I liked that the man was succeeding in a high-profile job as a seizure patient and I liked that he seemed to be dealing with his life of epilepsy openly.  But that was about it.  Three seizures on three years?  It was actually impressive.  I moved on from the story pretty quickly.


Two days later I was sent another article about the story.  Sports writer Jim Souhan from the Star Tribune had written an article about the incident where he said that because of Jerry Kill’s seizures, “the University of Minnesota’s football program, and by extension the entire school, became the subject of pity and ridicule.”  He went on to say, “No one who buys a ticket to TCF Bank Stadium should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground. This is not how you compete for sought-after players and entertainment dollars.”  (


The backlash to the story was pretty harsh.  Souhan issued an apology.  “I don’t believe the head coach who is the face of such an enterprise can handle the duties while frequently suffering public seizures.”  (


Articles appeared all over the country and the comments to those and Souhan’s were diverse.  But what struck me was a clear message sent to epileptics all over the country.


First of all, let me be clear that the majority were, in fact, in support of Coach Kill.   One website actually ran a basic poll:  “After his third seizure during a game, should Jerry Kill continue to coach the Gophers?”  Three thousand people responded (as of this writing).  Two thirds were in support of Coach Jerry Kill but a surprising one out of three people believe that the coach can no longer handle his duties.  Now why is that?  (


There were common reasons in comments and articles, trying to be fair and eliminating the ridiculous and cruel.  First were the people that tried to say that they were simply looking out for Coach Kill’s health.


(Comments from:


sled2hillSep. 15, 1310:29 AM: …In any other business if the leader had this happen in board meetings or stock holder meetings , he wouldn’t be in that position for very long. Sorry, Coach, move on for your own health sake.


julio57Sep. 15, 138:35 PM:  What if he has another seizure that is very serious and he hospitalized for a long period of time? What if he collapses and is injured seriously?


I think it’s nice that all of these people (and many, many more) seem so concerned with the coach’s health but I don’t believe that to be the case.  If all of these concerned parties were genuinely interested in the health of coaches they were not start with Coach Jerry Kill.


If it is, in fact, a health issue; what other health issues should we be paying attention to?  Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Americans (  Should we be keeping overweight coaches off the field?  Number two is cancer.  Should smokers be banned from coaching?  About 45,000 people die from epilepsy every year (  That puts “death from seizure” less than the number who die from stroke, diabetes and flu (ibid).  Are coaches suffering from these health issues also a problem for these fans?


A man calling himself “wavetheflag” commenting on Souhan’s original article responded: “People with seizure disorders are found in all walks of life and at all levels in business, government, the arts and professions. We aren’t always aware of them because many people, even today, do not talk about having epilepsy for fear of what others might think.”


I think that’s exactly the point.  The real problem is that people are terribly uncomfortable seeing a seizure.


Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports: What if he has a fatal seizure during a game, in full view of the stadium?  That’s our business.  (


Hoffer1973Sep. 15, 138:14 AM: it is a huge distraction to players and fans alike. It’s unfortunate and embarrassing…he shouldn’t be the face of the program.


Richard Thiher: He should be in a support position. Humans are not all equal. (




I have seizures.  Jerry Kill has seizures.  And now, people have decided that it makes them uncomfortable and they don’t want to see them so Jerry Kill should leave his job so they don’t have to be confronted with the reality that we exist.


We as seizure patients do not talk about our disorder because we have become afraid of what people might think.  And they are going to continue to think like that until we start to talk about it.  I know, it’s not always fun.  I know, it can be a pain in the neck.  But we need to start.  We need to “come out” and start educating people about who we are and what we are like.


There is nothing wrong with any of the people making these comments.  They are simply sports fans reacting to a football coach.  What they need to understand that there is nothing wrong with Jerry Kill.  Or maybe there is.  I have no idea.  He might be a horrible coach.  If I watched football I would probably know the answer to that question.  But it has nothing to do with my point.


As a seizure patient I can tell confidently say that having that seizure does not make Jerry Kill incapable of coaching any more than it makes the other 2.5 million of us incapable of doing our jobs (three million according to the epilepsy foundation (


Jerry Kill did hold a press conference a couple days later.  He only answered one question about seizures.  He was asked if he would consider coaching from the press box and he said “no.”  (  So: seizures would be ok as long as the general public doesn’t have to see them?  We really need to start doing something.


  • steve lawson  says:

    i have never heard any one explain this in such A POSITIVE way,you have my understanding and support,go get um coach

  • Sam Inglese  says:

    My ex wife felt my seizures were too much for her to take care of and our children to view. Now, before I ever get to visit my children I have to confirm that I do not feel “seizury” or “at risk of having an attack” My 10yr. old son now looks in my eyes and tells me if I am at “risk”. My ex says he is emotionally ‘distressed’ and is seeing a therapist and is afraid to be alone with me. I think she is at the root of his feelings and fears.

    • Mark Hawkins  says:

      Sorry, Sam…that is a rough story…

      I went through a long period where seizures cost me a lot….money, jobs, relationships…you know the story…I am in a pretty good place now, and I have a strong marriage (and two kids) but I am not sure how I would have dealt with something like that…

      You have my sincere respect…hang in there…thanks for taking the time to check out the website…


  • Leica Roberts  says:

    My heart goes out to Jerry Kill and his family. We epileptics are discriminated against. People see us and ask why can”t you work? You look fine. Then when someone does like Jerry Kill does and is bullied and told that he shouldn’t. Our choices are limited… don’t work and be vilified, degraded and distained or work and be called incompetent, inferior and unprofessional. Breast cancer awareness is everywhere you look (rightly so). Epilepsy kills just as many people, but is virtually non-existent to most people. It needs more funding. 1 in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime. 1 in 26 will become epileptic. Although seizures can become controlled for only 60% of epileptics, it is not curable.The other 40% have to live in extreme poverty.

    • Mark Hawkins  says:

      I agree with everything you say here and I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to make such a well thought-out and detailed comment. There IS discrimination against people living with epilepsy. People ARE bullied. I know my personal choices have been limited. The only thing I want to add is that I don’t see anything changing soon so it is up to us to educate the public and stay strong. We have to make the difference in our own lives and see that we, ourselves, live good lives. “Happiness” is a state of mind. It can be very hard to attain (It took me 40 years) but it is attainable. Good luck and stay strong. And thanks again for taking the time to express yourself.

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