Living with epilepsy doesn't slow down Temple lacrosse star Maddie Gebert

Matt Leon
April 13, 2019 - 5:00 am
Maddie Gebert

Temple University Athletics

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Temple University women's lacrosse team will visit Cincinnati Saturday in American Athletic Conference play.

The Owls are led by junior attacker Maddie Gebert, who has scored a team high 24 goals in 12 games this season.

It has become quite apparent that there is very little that can slow down Gebert — not even epilepsy.

Gebert was originally diagnosed in ninth grade of high school.

"I took a couple of tests, I went through an MRI scanner, they didn't have anything come up there. I took an EEG, which is when they plug all the little things into your head ... and they take a scan of all your brain waves. That's when they diagnosed, 'Oh, you could have epilepsy.' "

By that point, she had only experienced one seizure, so the diagnosis wasn't firm.

"I had my second seizure, freshman year of college in December," she remembered, "and that's when they officially put me on medication and said, 'OK, you have JME (juvenile myoclonic epilepsy). This is your epilepsy, this is your medication you're going to be taking for the rest of your life, as long as it works. We're going to have to try out a few more if this doesn't work. But you have epilepsy, it might go away later in life, but for right now, you're on medication.' "

Maddie Gebert
Temple University Athletics

Gebert believes she has had six major seizures, but adds the total number she has experienced could be even higher.

"If I black out for 10 seconds in class, that could be a minor seizure for me," she said. "But I've never noticed them. So I could be having them, I might not. I'm not sure; neurologists aren't sure and they'll never be sure unless they are taking an EEG of my brain while I'm sitting in class."

The epilepsy emerged as Gebert's lacrosse career was really coming together. She was worried at first that she may have to give up the sport she loves, but her neurologist encouraged her.

"She said basically, 'Look, athletics is great for epilepsy. Working out in general is just very good for epilepsy. It's one of the No. 1 things we recommend, is to keep working out and stay healthy basically,' " Gebert recalled. 

"She's like, 'I know there's a lot of pressure with lacrosse,' but she's like, 'No, keep doing it. Until it becomes a problem, keep doing it because it's very good for you.' And I was very excited to hear that because this is kind of what I always wanted to do in college. I was always wanted to play a sport in college. I always wanted to play lacrosse. And I was very glad I did not have to give that up."

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The business major is very open about her epilepsy, offering details very matter-of-factly — and that's no accident.

"I'm usually kind of matter-of-fact about everything," she said. "I like all things written out right in plain font right in front of me — no ifs, ands or buts. For me, it's easier to deal with it if I know these are the facts, this is what I have to do every day. I have to take my medication 8 a.m., 8 p.m. and that's it, and as long as I do that I'll be fine."

Gebert said epilepsy has changed her since being diagnosed, but for the better.

"It's changed me a bit in how I go about my life, as far as organizing," she said. "In high school, I used to stay up until 2 a.m. writing papers. I was a huge procrastinator. ... I just never would sleep in high school, and I didn't think twice about it because there was just no need for it — I mean everyone did it. 

"Now in college, I know everyone doesn't get much sleep, but I've become much more aware that I need my eight hours of sleep at night. I need to get my homework done early in the night so I'm not stressing about it later on. So if something takes more time that I originally thought, I wouldn't have to worry about not getting enough sleep."

Gebert is coming off one of her best performances of her career, scoring five goals and adding an assist in last weekend's 17-13 win over UConn. The performance earned her the honor of AAC Lacrosse Attacker of the Week. 

The Owls take on Cincinnati Saturday at noon.

You can follow Matt Leon on Twitter @Mattleon1060.