Epilepsy Talk

Celebrities with Epilepsy | May 9, 2015

The names are probably familiar to you. But the fact that all of these people have epilepsy may be a surprise. Despite that fact, they have lived their lives, becoming prominent in their fields, an inspiration to us all.

Harrison Ford of Star Wars fame, auctioned off his “The Force Awakens” signed one-of-a-kind leather jacket for $191,000 to benefit NYU’s non-profit Langone Medical Center in light of his daughter’s successful treatment. He is quoted as saying: “This is a cause near and dear to me.”

Alan Faneca, former guard for three NFL teams and a winner of one Super Bowl, has long been vocal about living with epilepsy. He’s now a spokesman for the Epilepsy Foundation, spreading awareness and teaching people first aid for seizures.

Amy Lee, co-founder and lead vocalist of the rock band Evanescence, has epilepsy and she regularly advocates for awareness of the disorder.

Bobby Jones, was an NBA basketball player for 13 years, with four years in the All-Stars. He took medications for epilepsy during his athletic career.

Chandra Gunn was the first player to be a finalist for both the Humanitarian Award for college hockey’s finest citizen and the Patty Kazmaier Award for best female hockey player in the nation. Today, Gunn is also a spokeswoman for the Epilepsy Therapy Project.

Danny Glover, the Academy Award-winning actor struggled with epilepsy and seizures as a child. Like many people with epilepsy, he was lucky enough to outgrow the disorder. Today, Glover supports the Epilepsy Foundation by contributing to the organization’s programs for children and by volunteering his time to speak about epilepsy and bring awareness to the issue.

Edward Snowden, the famous NSA whistleblower, got leave from his job at the NSA to be treated for his epilepsy and used the time to give revelatory interviews about America’s security regime.

Elton John, prolific song-writer and singer, has struggled with epilepsy for years. It is thought that the epilepsy was induced by the star’s years of drug use.

Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was diagnosed with a mild form of epilepsy.

“Flo-Jo,” world record-breaking athlete and star of the 1988 Olympics, developed epilepsy in her 30s and died as the result of a seizure in her sleep in 1998.

Hugo Weaving, is the famous Australian actor who starred in The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His battle with epilepsy began as a teenager but says that his disorder never held him back, and that he didn’t let it stop him from doing the things he loves to do.

Jason Snelling, former Atlanta Falcons running back is an important supporter of the Epilepsy Foundation. He was diagnosed with epilepsy in college. With treatment, he was able to continue his football career and become a successful professional athlete.

Jerry Kill, University of Minnesota winning head football coach, had a life-changing seizure on the sidelines in 2011 at his first Minnesota home game — in front of roughly 50,000 people. Since that time, he hasn’t skipped a beat. And aside from championing epilepsy, he and his family have donated $100,000 to start the “Chasing Dreams” fund. “Chasing Dreams” will help fund “seizure-smart school initiatives, along with Camp Oz, a specially designed camp for those with epilepsy in Hudson, Wis.”

Kelly Osbourne went on the ketogenic diet in the hopes of avoiding a second seizure. The “Fashion Police” host was hospitalized for five days after suffering a seizure in front of a live studio audience during a taping of her E! show.

“Lil’ Wayne” the famous Rap superstar, recently came clean about the condition he has dealt with for much of his life. By talking publicly about his epilepsy and what it feels like to have a seizure, the rapper is helping to shed light on the condition for his millions of fans.

Martin Kemp, a member of Spandau Ballet has had epilepsy since having two brain tumors in the 1990s. He finished third in the summer series of Celebrity Big Brother 2012.

“Mighty Mike” Simmer of the Harlem Wizards, first started having seizures as a toddler. He continues to live with epilepsy as an adult, but he works with the Epilepsy Foundation to help children with special needs.

Neil Young, singer of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, thrived despite numerous medical problems, including seizures. He once had a seizure during a concert performance, but he persevered and later remarked, “The aneurysm, polio, epilepsy — all those things are just part of the landscape.”

“Prince”, the legendary performer and Grammy Award-winner, only talked publicly about his childhood battle with epilepsy a few years ago.

Richard Burton, once the highest paid actor in Hollywood, was plagued by epilepsy all his life. He eventually fell into deep alcoholism, trying to control his seizures.

Rick Harrison, the star of “Pawn Stars” lives with epilepsy. Now, Harrison is giving back by working with the Epilepsy Foundation and helping the organization bring awareness to his home state of Nevada.

Susan Boyle, the woman who made waves on “Britain’s Got Talent” with her lovely voice, has also opened up about having epilepsy. The unlikely star struggled with the condition throughout her childhood. Boyle has talked openly about her physical disability and how it held her back.

Tony Coelho, the former Democratic minority whip of the US House of Representatives has epilepsy. His lifelong experience with epilepsy motivated him to author the landmark legislation Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. He also served as campaign manager for Al Gore’s presidential run. Mr. Coello is the honorary Life Chair of the Epilepsy Foundation.

It’s safe to say that many more famous people have epilepsy, but don’t reveal it in public because of the ongoing stigma associated with the condition.

What lessons can be learned from a list such as the above?

Epilepsy is not discriminating.

Epilepsy can strike anybody at any station of life or level of accomplishment.

Epilepsy can be deadly and devastating to a person’s life, even if they enjoy other successes.

Finally, epilepsy does not exclude the possibility of major achievements and contributions.

 

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Resources:

Harrison Ford’s <i>Force Awakens</i> Leather Jacket Fetches $191,000 at Auction

http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/celebrities-epilepsy

http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/epilepsy-10-people-you-didnt-3287368

http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-with-epilepsy/celebrity-lists?utm_expid=16418821-66.2vofEU_-TfqUYwzK_OeZiQ.0&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

http://www.newhealthguide.org/Famous-People-With-Epilepsy.html

http://www.epilepsywarriors.org/epilepsy-warriors-resources/epilepsy-facts/famous-people-in-history-that-have-epilepsy/

http://epilepsyrecovery.blogspot.com/p/famous-people-with-epilepsy.html

http://www.zap2it.com/blogs/kelly_osbourne_goes_on_epilepsy_diet_to_prevent_seizures_-_report-2013-03

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/bigten/2013/11/20/jerry-kill-university-of-minnesota-football-epilepsy/3656705/

 


21 Comments »

  1. John Roberts, Chief Justice, SCOTUS? Debatable. See link: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1648384,00.html

    Like

    Comment by Martha — May 9, 2015 @ 12:46 PM

  2. I swear to god Phylis, every time I open up my computer–if only to see your smiling face, and damn! You just get better looking! Brilliant, loony (and the bone structure does not harm) you just get better as you, just as patt-rat–y-pattio, (think pattois—I may have invented a new word for YOU from the French)Just checking in, smiling, thanks for another day.
    Michele

    Like

    Comment by Michele — May 9, 2015 @ 12:50 PM

  3. Oh, and, I was thinking, really life is just a bit too difficult on some days, and then we lean on Arthur and Jim and the lovely other people who complete us.

    Like

    Comment by Michele — May 9, 2015 @ 12:53 PM

  4. Great post, as per usual!! Amy Lee of Evanescence doesn’t have epilepsy though. She advocates for her younger brother who has it 🙂

    Like

    Comment by sitagaia — May 9, 2015 @ 10:04 PM

  5. Yet another reason to admire her!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 10, 2015 @ 9:13 AM

  6. I’m epileptic and finding it difficult to stay with a partner. I’m lonely

    Like

    Comment by Helen Wollie — May 11, 2015 @ 1:58 PM

    • Relationships of all kinds with epilepsy are difficult and I have found out the hard way. I think it’s because most people find it hard to understand what they can’t see and even if they see a seizure happening it’s so frightening to them they aren’t sure how they feel afterwards. For me, it’s been a nightmare. I had a seizure during an argument once with a man who claimed to love me, wanted to marry me and ended up almost killing me by beating me during the seizure! If you are lucky enough to find someone with a great deal of compassion and understanding, I say there’s a keeper for sure!

      Like

      Comment by Janet — May 13, 2015 @ 9:24 PM

      • There is hope.

        I met a guy at work who became a buddy and we started hanging out. You know, lunch and stuff. And he made me laugh till I couldn’t catch my breath.

        And then the first time I was in his apartment, he was making drinks and I had a flaming seizure. I figured: “Oh no. Here we go again.”

        He was unbelievably caring, gentle and kind. He asked if I was having a seizure and what he could do for me. (It turned out that one of his best friends since second grade had epilepsy).

        But, I wouldn’t exactly call our dating days “romantic.”

        Our second date was at Arby’s where I instantly spilled a giant root beer on my jeans. The third date, we spent at the Laundromat, because those were the only jeans I had. The next date, we argued about a pair of shoes I was buying. (I hate to admit it, but he was right. They were a piece of crap.)

        But we did fun things too. Like go to a street fair, movies, read poems out loud to one another. (We’re both writers.)

        And eventually, things evolved. Ironically, without any expectations or preparations. We were simply in love. Good buddies who happened to love each other also. With FULL disclosure. And many seizures, too.

        Six weeks later, he called and asked me to marry him. (No, he wasn’t a chicken, I just happened to live 350 miles away. It had been a temporary freelance job.)

        I said: “No.” I was terrified. I kept saying “No.” I wouldn’t know a good marriage if it bonked me over the head. I came from a fractured family and every member of my extended family was divorced. Easiest way to not get divorced? Don’t marry.

        Finally, it was time to say, “yes,” or “bye-bye.” And you can guess the rest. A year and two days after our first date, we got married.

        It’s the real deal…unconditional love. Thirty-three years of it. (With a few bumps in the road along the way.)

        I write him love notes every day. Now, isn’t that romantic?

        Like

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2015 @ 9:13 AM

  7. Helen, You might consider a support group.

    There are people of all ages, men and women, at mine.

    Lots of camaraderie, questions asked and answered. I’ve gotten tremendous feedback and satisfaction from it.

    Here’s a list. Think about it.

    Adult Epilepsy Support Groups — Updated

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2013/11/02/adult-epilepsy-support-groups-updated-2/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 11, 2015 @ 3:07 PM

  8. I like this list a lot. I’m still hoping there might be a way to bring awareness through someone like Ellen DeGeneres who does so much for so many causes. It would be so nice to get a group together from the Foundation and try to contact her….couldn’t hurt. What do you think Phyllis?

    Like

    Comment by Janet — May 13, 2015 @ 9:27 PM

  9. Sounds like a good idea, but unlikely. I know there was something rumored to be happening, but I didn’t hear anymore.

    The spokesperson is officially Greg Grunberg, known for his series “Heroes”, who runs the advocacy group “Talk About It!” http://www.talkaboutit.org/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2015 @ 9:02 AM

  10. Thanks all of you. I don’t live in the US. I live in Liberia, West Africa. There is so much stigma around epilepsy. I have been called a witch, a demon, and everything. I know there are epileptics, but they may be hiding their status. My mom has been so much support to me and she sometimes talks about starting some support group here in Liberia.

    Like

    Comment by Helen Wollie — May 22, 2015 @ 12:21 PM

    • The support group is fabulous. The stigma is not.

      My guess is that, because of the stigma, there are many more people with epilepsy in the “closet”. 😦

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 22, 2015 @ 2:15 PM

  11. Strong link between magnesium deficiency especially, and vitamin E deficiency with epilepsy – http://www.doctoryourself.com/epilepsy.html

    Like

    Comment by Wen — November 24, 2016 @ 4:37 AM

  12. Thanks lots for the link, Wen!

    Could you please post it under:

    Brain Food for Your Health… https://epilepsytalk.com/2016/11/03/brain-food-for-your-health/

    so that everyone can benefit?

    Thanks again!

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 24, 2016 @ 10:01 AM

  13. I developed a seizure disorder when I was 37 with 3 small children, most likely the result of head injury.

    Like

    Comment by Jennie Stegall — January 5, 2017 @ 1:06 AM

  14. Jennie, you might be interested in these articles:

    Have You Had A Concussion?

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2014/03/30/have-you-had-a-concussion/

    Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy

    https://epilepsytalk.com/2014/04/13/traumatic-brain-injury-and-epilepsy/

    Like

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 5, 2017 @ 9:58 AM


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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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