Epilepsy Talk

A Fallen Football Hero | December 5, 2012

This is a story about life’s hard knocks. Literally.

It’s the story of former NFL Browns running back Jerome Harrison and how his occasional seizures, thought to be a result of concussions from the game, saved his life.

The 28-year-old running back was traded from the Detroit Lions to the Philadelphia Eagles, but the trade was voided a day later when he failed his physical with his new team. The Eagles’ doctors discovered he had a brain tumor.

The good news was the tumor was discovered, it was benign or non cancerous, and it was removed.

The bad news is that Harrison suffered a stroke the next day, following an unpredicted long and difficult brain surgery.

He has joined the ranks of epileptics with uncontrolled seizures.

His football days are done. And life as he knew it, will never be the same.

His case, unfortunately, is not unique. Many players will either say they’re OK, cover up their symptoms or beg to go back into a game after a “big hit” to the head. They’ll go so far as to fake their way through a concussion test, just to continue playing.

Which brings up the question: Should there be an independent neurologist present on the sidelines for every NFL game? And why do independent neurologists only become involved after the concussion diagnosis has been made, if it is acknowledged at all?

I think the answer is obvious. And yes, the NFL has talked the talk, but they haven’t walked the walk…yet.

Under ideal circumstances, the NFL would institute the following:

1. Placement of a safety official in the replay booth, who is charged with monitoring the field, the sidelines, and any available replays for evidence of a player who possibly has been concussed…

2. An independent neurologist per team at field level who would be buzzed by the safety official to conduct a comprehensive exam of any player who possibly has suffered a concussion…

3. Mandatory examination of the player who possibly has suffered a concussion, in a comfortable area of the locker room, with shoulder pads off and the doctor and player able to engage in a candid and thorough exchange.

Meanwhile, a wave of litigation filed by more than 2,000 former National Football League players over how the league has handled concussions is placing physicians at the forefront of the legal debate.

No surprise there.

The players claim that for years, the NFL failed to warn about concussion risks and impose proper safety regulations, leading to long-term brain injuries among athletes.

Legal experts say that at the heart of the lawsuits is the medical science of concussions and the health professionals responsible for conveying such knowledge to players and the public.

There’s a lot for everyone to learn.


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  1. They showed this football player on one of the half time shows during a football game. Being a brain tumor survivor I can relate. Mine was the size of a baseball and before i had it removed, i didn’t know what a seizure was other then the Grand mall ones. Boy has my eyes opened up on seizures and brain tumors. I was 38 when they found my tumor. After brain surgery, the seizures followed shortly after. But like I always say, better to live like this, then be 6 ft under ground.



    Comment by Zolt — December 6, 2012 @ 1:03 PM

    • Well, it’s interesting, Zolt. Sometimes seizures are a portent of a brain tumor, like my friend Sally. She had brain surgery, they removed the non-cancerous tumor but she still has seizures.

      On the other hand, Charlie had intractable epilepsy for 53 years and since his brain surgery he hasn’t had a single seizure. He’s just on prophylactic meds and visits the neuro quarterly for an EEG and check-up.

      So, I guess you just don’t know. It’s kind of a crap shoot, because everybody’s different and there are probably a skillion different types of tumors, plus post-surgical recoveries, etc.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 6, 2012 @ 6:40 PM

      • Hey Zolt , glad to hear you attitude is much like mine. My story parallels Harrison remarkably, only I’m 4 years out and I wish he and his family only blessings. If it wasn’t for the seizures they never would have found the tumor and it would have been much worst for me! Sometimes what seems like a curse is a blessing! We can keep that in mind when we hit bumps in the road. Best to ya,


        Comment by sally08809 — December 7, 2012 @ 4:37 PM

  2. Yes, my first grand mall seizure was the first sign that, that something was terribly wrong with me and that I took seriously. The signs that i had before that were also serious and i should of heeded too, but did not know how to explain or prove to my doc that i’m not crazy and those things where happening. 🙂 I’m one that doesn’t like to go to the docs unless if something is seriously bad. My girlfriend at the time told me i should go and get an mri, 3 months before that happened, at the time i didn’t know what i should do.

    Well after my grand mall, i had a headache that was worse then any experienced before. So i had to leave work because of that. I thought my grand mall was just a faint spell and that is what i told the advise nurse on the phone, she said i need to go to the emergency center right away. So that is what i did. what seemed like forever after all the tests and waiting, the lady doctor walks in at 10pm and tells me they found the problem and it was a tumor. I was like i’m going to die, tumor = death was my thoughts. I asked if they can show me a picture. She brought back a black and white image and i was like get it out of me asap. It was so big, they didn’t want me to leave the hospital, saying if i don’t get it out asap, i could go into a coma. There i was in the emergency room all alone, contemplating the meaning of brain surgery. I was tossed into the deep end of the medical field, it was sink or swim. I just put my faith in them knowing that in such a large area, bay area, SF. they must be plenty of people that have had this procedure, so i felt i was in very good hands. Which after all was said and done, all went very well. I went into the emergency center on a Monday afternoon and came out of the hospital the following Saturday morning. A week of hell, but i went through it all and am still here. Before the surgery, my thoughts were “what will be will be” as i put my life in there hands and Gods.


    Comment by Zolt — December 7, 2012 @ 3:32 PM

  3. That is one scary story, Zolt. Straight into the deep end you went. Thankfully, without drowning…

    Thank goodness you had a good doc and were in the epi center (no pun intended) of major medicine. Not to mention that she found the tumor in one swift round of testing.

    I’d go as far as to say she saved your life. The Gods WERE with you!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 7, 2012 @ 4:15 PM

  4. Glad you have such a great attitude Zolt. If it wasn’t for the seizures they never would have known I had a tumor until who knows how long and how much permanent or irreparable damage… Or inoperable! The rehab was no fun and lengthy… My life forever changed yes. My story and tumor a parallel to Harrison’s. but four years out now and seizures controlled by meds.
    So my philosophy? A seeming curse or a blessing in disguise? No I will never be the same. But who is from day to day… The passage of time… The experiences of life… Just for some more abrupt or seemingly unfair…. Well it all may be revealed in the course of time and how life ends up panning out. Who is to tell where this journey will take me now. I seem to be along for the ride and someone else or something else is driving my ship… All the best,


    Comment by sally08809 — December 7, 2012 @ 4:54 PM

    • Zolt, Sally was the person I was speaking of before. She spent 1 year at Kessler Institute (one of the best rehabs in the country) and still left only able to speak a few words and had much diminished cognitive abilities.

      As her friend, I’ve seen her grow and leap into the forefront. After her surgery, she could barely talk.

      Now she’s a great talker. 🙂 And reader. And writer. And speaker.

      Needless to say, she is one woman of great grit and determination.

      AND she now helps run a Traumatic Brain Injury support group and an Epilepsy support group!

      The Phoenix arises out of the ashes.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 7, 2012 @ 7:25 PM

  5. Woooo Hooo, Way to go Sally. Sounds like a Hollywood movie, with happy ending. What type of meds do you take to control your seizures? I’m maxed out on Gabapentin 3x a day, but i still have my seizures once a month.

    I’ve taken meds that moved my seizures to every other month. But then my seizures were worse then if once a month.

    Here is a question for those that have seizures regularly. Do you find that your seizures increase in straight the longer you are without a seizure?


    Comment by Zolt — December 10, 2012 @ 6:23 PM

  6. I don’t have that experience. (In fact, my seizures are very well controlled.)

    And I tried researching it a bit and came up empy-handed. 😦


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 10, 2012 @ 6:45 PM

  7. Wow! You all are incredible! All three of ya! I’m so blessed to be a part of Phylis’s “Never say Never” family. “Never” had biten me many times until I learned to not use it. Sally, I bet you find your support group very rewarding. I had mine last night and it warms my heart and breaks my heart at the same time. Last night a mother came in asking a question “What do I do?”. Her son is far away and is just starting the trip of seizures and diagnosis. Thank goodness for our little information source! Phylis! I was able to show, explain and offer hope. Thank you Phylis!
    I know we get off the subject sometimes in our sharing, but It’s well worth it.
    The only thing I really pay attention to in sports is Nascar and I know that since the death of Dale Earnhardt Nascar has made huge strides in safety issues concerning Brain injury. They have a medical team at each track and it is mandatory to go there if you’ve had a wreck.
    I’m planning on doing something I “never” thought I’d do, and that is ride a race car at 170 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina this May.
    I thank God, for all of you that share your positive stories of Hope to a lot of scared people facing the unknown. Attitude makes all the difference in the world.
    Bless you all


    Comment by Charlie — December 11, 2012 @ 7:02 PM

  8. After all you’ve been through, a race car at 170 mph?

    Boy, Charlie, you are fearless.

    Just make sure your will is in order! 😉

    P.S. What you forgot to say is that YOU started the support group all by yourself when the EFA pulled out, because your area wasn’t “important” enough.

    It’s succeeded because of all YOUR blood, sweat and tears!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 12, 2012 @ 9:10 AM

  9. Headache is the common symptom that is found with 46% of patients with tumors. Still there is no specific reason is detected for the occurrence of brain tumor. Only a mild headache of occasional period is not a reason to brain tumor. You should consult to your doctor if your headaches are different than you’ve ever had, with nausea or vomiting. In these diseases if you feel discomfort in reaching up to the bathroom then it is matter to tell your doctor.;

    Up to date blog post on our blog page


    Comment by Zita Bancroft — February 11, 2013 @ 8:39 AM

    • As you said: “Although headaches are probably the most common symptom of a brain tumor, most people with headaches – even persistent or severe headaches – do not have a tumor.

      However, some kinds of headaches are particularly worrisome. A steady headache that is worse in the morning than the afternoon, a persistent headache that is associated with nausea or vomiting, or a headache accompanied by double vision, weakness, or numbness all suggest a possible tumor.”


      Thanks for bringing that fact to light.

      (Question: What do brain tumors have to do with yeast infections?)


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 11, 2013 @ 10:50 AM

  10. Interesting Zita, do you think a brain tumor is like a yeast infection? I was also thinking it may have to do with some type of fungus. Who knows. More research is needed as always.

    I also had horrible headaches before the removal, as well as nausea in the mornings, i had auras before my headaches, slow moving lightning bolt type thing just float from one peripheral vision to the next. i had numbness in my fingers a lot. A couple of times i had the fall down seizures. Ones when i had one, i almost went to the ER, except i got lost and couldn’t find it in the hospital. Doh. I wasn’t feeling good, so i ended up going home. Then to find i couldn’t find where my car was parked. Took an hr to find it. Doh!#@$


    Comment by Zolt — April 2, 2014 @ 4:43 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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