The color purple and Cathedral High School senior basketball standout James Franklin will forever be linked. Purple is the international color that represents epilepsy awareness and Franklin along with 50 million people around the world that have epilepsy, which makes it the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages according to the Epilepsy Foundation. If you don’t know anything about epilepsy just imagine having an unpredictable seizure, anytime day or night.
However, just because Franklin has epilepsy, he doesn’t let that stop him from playing the game that he loves and has been playing since he was three years old. “I didn’t want to be labeled as a quitter because of my epilepsy,” Franklin said, “but what inspired me to keep playing basketball was I wanted to prove to people that you can overcome tough things in life and also I wanted to be looked at as an inspirational person who others that suffer can look up to.”
Franklin was diagnosed with epilepsy at an early age. As he grew up with the traumatizing diagnosis, he noticed how hard it was to deal with, especially when it came to his school work. “It was stressful because I never knew when I would have a seizure, and with the memory loss, school work was hard to keep up with.”, he said.
Surrounded by the love and support of his mother Tamkia and his father James Sr., these obstacles haven’t stopped him from living life to the fullest. “On the good side though, I knew that I had to have a strong mindset and think positive so it would not let me down. Just thinking about it, I would say I am a very strong, confident and a person that likes to lead.” Franklin said. Although he has this positive outlook on life, there are some situations that are unexpected and challenging to deal with.
During this past season, there was a terrible incident that happened when Franklin’s team was visiting another school playing a basketball game. While he was at the free throw line, a fan from the opposing school seemed to be mocking his condition by laying on the floor of the student cheering section and flipping around as if he was having a seizure. James was so focused on the game and making the free throw, he didn’t notice what was going on in the crowd. “I didn’t see him on the floor flipping around because I have no peripheral vision but after the game, I did see a video that someone sent me that was posted on Twitter.”
After viewing the video, Franklin was surprised. “I was kinda shocked because I never knew somebody would take pride in acting out a disorder that many people have. The next day it really hit me and I was very angry to the point where I cried at home and cried while I was in the game that I had a couple of hours later. I was also thinking about depression.”
This could have been the ending to a very sad story however Franklin could not have imagined how his courage inspired the community. A week later, his team visited the defending state champion Warren Central Warriors and played in what was advertised as the Epilepsy Awareness game. The gymnasium was packed and television cameras were everywhere.
Before the game started, Franklin and his family were presented with a check of money that students from Warren Central had raised to show their support for James. As he walked to center court with his teammates, everyone cheered. On this night Franklin’s team played in new purple uniforms. What a difference a week can make. Going from anger and tears to educating and inspiring everyone. The senior who plans to continue playing basketball and study meteorology in college has put a spotlight on epilepsy awareness and for that, he is a leader.