Seizure spurs epilepsy awarenessPublished 12:21am Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal
Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill had an epileptic seizure at halftime on Saturday on the sidelines of TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Kill was raised onto a stretcher and sent by ambulance to a local hospital while Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys served as acting head coach, leading Minnesota to a 29-12 victory over Western Illinois.
Kill’s latest seizure was the third he’s suffered in 22 games with the Gophers and the second in front tens of thousands of fans (last year’s struck in the locker room).
It raised questions from fans and the media about whether Kill is fit to run a Big Ten football program because of his medical condition. StarTribune columnist Jim Souhan quickly wrote that Kill is “unable to fulfill his duties” and if his health was in such disrepair before arriving at Minnesota that “he shouldn’t have been hired to coach in the Big Ten in the first place.”
Souhan’s column struck a nerve among many Gophers fans and epilepsy advocates and led the columnist to write not one but two short clarifying posts on the StarTribune’s website. Souhan wrote later that he understands the University of Minnesota can’t and shouldn’t fire Kill because of he has epileptic seizures, but that the administration should “ask him to step aside” and that Kill should do so.
I believe Kill is not only fit to continue leading the rebuilding of the Gophers football program, but he is an important symbol of hope and inspiration, showing the nation that he can achieve great things despite his debilitating disease.
Kill personifies Minnesota as a state of strong and enduring people.
KATE Radio’s sports director Aaron Worm has two sons who suffer from epileptic seizures and said, like his sons, Kill isn’t letting his illness define him.
“As a father you know for a fact that you have sons that aren’t going to be able to do certain things like driving an automobile or working heavy machinery,” Worm said. “But at the same time I’m never going to tell my sons that they can never do this or that. It doesn’t define who they are and any parent would agree that they can, for the most part, do anything anybody else can do.”
Souhan’s column titled “In category of health, Kill falls too short to continue” has nearly 300 comments online and almost all criticize the author and many were written with an angry tone.
Worm called himself someone who always looks for a silver lining, and given the health of his sons that seems like a necessity. The silver lining amid all the negative posts and articles about Kill, Worm said, is that it is raising awareness of epilepsy.
“Epilepsy is being talked about not only at a state but national level,” he said.
Many people took to social media in support of Kill and the Facebook pages of advocate groups like Epilepsey-Foundation Minnesota exploded with comments.
Diane Stein, M.D., of The Epilepsy Autism Project left one of the longer comments, writing she understands the public does not want to see convulsions because of fear and ignorance.
“If the coach had cancer and fainted during four games he would be heralded as a strong and determined man,” she said. “Instead, because coach Kill’s health issue involves him having a visible convulsion, he should be chucked out.”
Kill was back at work on Monday with the full support of his athletic director, Norwood Teague, who said “Jerry is our coach, and we are 100 percent behind him.”
Kill isn’t letting his epilepsy define him, and Worm isn’t letting it define his sons.
“My son is going to play tee-ball, and he could have a seizure but he is still going to play,” he said.
And Jerry is still going to coach.
Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune each Tuesday.