Lincoln-Way East graduate inspires Epilepsy Awareness Game
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

On May 3, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. the Lincoln-Way Central Knights Softball Team will host the Lincoln-Way West Warriors in their first-ever Epilepsy Awareness Game. Knight and Warrior players and coaches will be decked out in purple to support epilepsy awareness.

The idea for the game was prompted by Lincoln-Way East graduate Lauren Knepper, who initially reached out to Lincoln-Way Central Athletic Director, Matthew Lyke in early April. She told Lyke that she wanted to coordinate efforts for an official Epilepsy Awareness Game, and Lyke connected her to Lincoln-Way Central Head Softball Coach, Jeff Tarala.

Knepper graduated from high school in 2012 and eagerly enrolled in college at Saint Xavier University in the fall. Just when she was getting settled into college, she says that her world “came crashing down.”

“My friend found me unresponsive in my bed after I hadn't answered any of her texts or calls,” says Knepper. “I was rushed to the ER and spent several days in a medication-induced coma in their Neurology ICU and even longer on the Neurology floor. I woke up with a breathing tube in. Cords, wires, IVs, machines, drains and devices were everywhere. I couldn't talk or move; it was the scariest feeling of my life. My nurse told me I was lucky to be alive. I learned I had gone into status epilepticus, a continuous seizure state that can cause death.”

Knepper then began to have grand mal seizures three to four times per week. After medications, countless appointments, hospitalizations and a surgery designed to help her condition, Knepper says she “finally started to gain a little more control over my life.” Before her senior year, Knepper earned a student leadership position, meaning she would have her own room without a roommate.

“The summer before my senior year, I was frantically looking for any kind of solution to being alone at night,” she says. “This is something that people with epilepsy can get very nervous about because you can suffocate in your pillow, fall out of bed, injure yourself or go into continuous seizure state—many of which can lead to death. That's when I found out about The Danny Did Foundation. After I applied, they paid in full for a bed alarm for me and sent it to me the next week.”

The alarm is designed to sound when it senses certain movements over a certain amount of time, and would alert Knepper’s suitemate to ensure she was safe at night. “It definitely saved my life more than once during school,” she says.

Since then, Knepper has become more independent and gained more control over her seizures. She even works as a nurse in the same hospital that saved her life, and has become an active member of The Danny Did Foundation's Young Professionals Board: a motivating force for Knepper to raise awareness of her disease, as well as help others with epilepsy. “After meeting Danny's family and hearing how this little boy helped so many people through those who loved him, I knew I had to join their family in this endeavor,” she says.

The Lincoln-Way Central vs. Lincoln-Way West Softball game is just one of many ways Knepper plans on spreading epilepsy awareness this year. “Any opportunity to help a former graduate of Lincoln-Way and the community in a positive way is what we should be about,” says Head Softball Coach Jeff Tarala. “Lauren's story is so powerful; this is an opportunity to educate the girls and others in the community about others’ struggles, and to get involved in something that is bigger than ourselves."

Those who wish to support epilepsy awareness are invited to attend the May 3 game at Lincoln-Way Central. During the game, Knepper will be handing out information about The Danny Did Foundation. She will also host a basket raffle with items donated by local businesses; funds raised will be donated to The Danny Did Foundation.

Those who wish to learn more about The Danny Did Foundation, seizure safety and the little boy who sparked the movement can visit dannydid.org.