Jerry Kill’s emotional retirement news conference struck a chord with thousands of other Minnesotans who suffer from his condition, the head of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota said Wednesday.

Kill’s remarks drove home “the reality of how relentless epilepsy can be,” said Vicki Kopplin, the group’s executive director. “It really made me think of the 60,000 people who have epilepsy in Minnesota. All of those families know what he is going through.”

Epilepsy is a term covering a group of brain disorders and nerve diseases that cause seizures. A person who has two or more unprovoked seizures is considered to have the condition, according to Kopplin’s group, though the seizures can take many forms. With about 4.3 million diagnosed cases, it is more common in Americans than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease combined.

Kopplin said many people dealing with epilepsy have to face the same type of work-health decisions that Kill struggled with before his announcement.

“I think it is really hard for people to see because they can see his emotions, but at the same time I can understand it,” Kopplin said. “It is not uncommon for people with epilepsy to adjust their lives.”

Kill has been an advocate for children and families dealing with epilepsy, and will continue to be through his work with the Chasing Dreams Fund, she said. Kill and his wife, Rebecca, started the fund with a $100,000 contribution. The money helps pay for Camp Oz, a specially designed camp for epilepsy patients, and also for school initiatives related to epilepsy.

“Coach [Kill] and Rebecca were able to take a difficult situation personally and turn it into helping thousands and thousands of people,” Kopplin said.


Vineeta Sawkar

Twitter: @vsawkar