Tony Coelho: "Epilepsy Gave Me a Mission." (Role Models)

The Exceptional Parent, March 1995 | Go to article overview

Tony Coelho: "Epilepsy Gave Me a Mission." (Role Models)


I was a happy kid, living and working on the family farm in California, good in school, fair at sports and popular with girls. I wanted to be a trial lawyer and later, a priest. I had no idea that my life would not go as planned.

Everything changed when the pickup truck I was riding in flipped over. I got a nasty bump on the head, but you recover fast when you're 15.

I was milking cows when I had my first convulsion - a grand mal seizure. My parents, children of religious Portuguese immigrants, sent me to faith healers, seeking a supernatural explanation for what they couldn't understand. But the convulsions continued.

After high school, I entered Loyola University in Los Angeles, where I was president of the student body. hi my senior year, I applied to a Jesuit seminary. They were overjoyed to accept me, an intelligent young leader deeply committed to serving God.

But, the cross I was destined to carry was the stigma of disability, not the crucifix of a priest.

During a routine physical for the seminary, I learned I had epilepsy. Like many with unexplained physical or mental problems, I felt freed. Now that it was understood that my repeated seizures resulted from a brain injury and could be treated, I thought everything would return to normal.

I realized my naivete when I broke the news to my father

"No son of mine has epilepsy!" he shouted

"This one does!' I shouted back.

I then discovered that my parents had known about my epilepsy years earlier, but wouldn't accept it. Centuries-old prejudice held a firm grip on their minds. In medieval times, people who had "fits" were considered possessed by the devil, and for some people, this belief persists.

Relief, but persecution

The diagnosis which had given me such relief was the beginning of the personal and institutional persecution so familiar to people with disabilities.

I was expelled from the seminary. Sorry, they said, but epileptics are not eligible for the priesthood.

When the doctor reported my epilepsy to state authorities, my driver's license was revoked. Soon after, my health insurance was canceled.

Because I wouldn't lie on employment applications, I couldn't get a job. All the offers I'd had since graduation disappeared. Not even the army would take me, though they were drafting others my age for Vietnam.

Nothing about me had changed since taking that physical, but suddenly, I was an "epileptic," an outcast.

Booze helped me through the idle days and lonesome nights. I was out of work, out of luck and out of hope, scared to face the future in a world where no one wanted me.

Hope from Hope

I had seriously considered suicide until a Jesuit priest provided me with an opportunity to live with the Bob Hope family. Mr. Hope befriended me. "If you find your way blocked," he told me, "find another route to get where you want to be."

He suggested I find a ministry outside the church, perhaps in Congress. So, I began my career in politics.

Role Models

What I once considered a curse forced me to face life, shaped me and strengthened me. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tony Coelho: "Epilepsy Gave Me a Mission." (Role Models)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.