Last month I attended the Minnesota State Fair. My husband bought tickets to the Depeche Mode concert to celebrate my birthday (28 again, I decided to stop counting one year earlier than most). I saw a young gentleman, who probably was a University of Minnesota student because he wore a maroon with gold t-shirt with the recognizable “M” logo that read, in a parody of the late John Lennon, “Imagine there is no Wisconsin.” I laughed as I wagged my finger at the student, and he laughed back at me. Yes, it’s a friendly rivalry that goes back to 1948, and we’ve kept Paul Bunyan’s Axe since 2004.
That’s right: I’m a University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) Badgers fan, as is my husband, and we’ve had season tickets for the games since 2001, the year after I graduated from the UW’s flagship institution. I also have epilepsy, having been diagnosed with the disorder in 1981.
Today I received an e-mail alert from the Epilepsy Foundation of America (EFA). I’m on a lot of e-lists, but the EFA is one of the few that goes to my normal, rather than my spam, e-box. Granted, I don’t always do as the EFA asked, but this time, I feel the need.
Jerry Kill, head coach of my alma mater’s rival University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (GG), has had medical problems as both a cancer survivor and as someone who has re-occurring seizures, also known as epilepsy. Unfortunately, Coach Kill has had seizures during GG games, as recently as earlier this month. One idiot in the Minnesota press suggested that a coach with epilepsy should not have such a high profile job.
Normally I don’t like to use the word idiot, especially because the legal definition of the word hasn’t been valid in years, but in this case, it’s applicable. The journalist needs to learn that the statement he made is in contradiction of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which has mandated that people with disabilities (and epilepsy is included) can and must be employed as long as they can do the job with reasonable accommodations.
Yes, Coach Kill missed the second half of the game earlier this month because of a seizure, and it wasn’t the first time. One could argue that this means that he ‘can’t do the job.’ I disagree.
When I was fourteen and a cheerleader for my high school freshmen basketball team, our coach had a stroke during a game. Eventually he recovered and continued his coaching career for many more years, albeit from a wheelchair. Should he have quit because he could have had another stroke? I think not, and no one made such an idiotic suggestion to him.
Seizures are scary. I know this from experiencing them within myself, and witnessing others having them, too. I have given presentations on epilepsy, I have sat on the board of directors of the local EFA chapter, and I have written instructions on what to do in case I have a seizure that I post in my cubicle at work and even on my website. From Douglas Adams’s advice “Don’t Panic” to accepting the stares with dignity and the potentially stupid or embarrassing questions with humor, I advise people dealing with seizures to stand up and not take any crap from idiots like this journalist. I’ve been standing up to such ridiculousness since I was eleven (Oops – I just gave away my age, didn’t I?), and that includes anyone who has tried unsuccessfully to bully me into thinking I am anything less than a human being worthy of respect and dignity just because I have a condition that needs the occasional and reasonable accommodation.
Jerry Kill is very worthy of respect for the dignity with which he has dealt with his medical issues, even if he is the head coach of my favorite college team’s rival. Millions of people like us live with epilepsy every day, and until my dying breath and beyond (it’s in my will), I will continue to fight for the rights of people with epilepsy, among others.
Instead of making such an idiotic suggestion, that reporter might want to consider utilizing his column to promote people with disabilities who successfully work in the community. I recommend starting with Coach Jerry Kill, just as soon as the journalist reads a copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Pog ma thoin!