Beatrice Capra

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I grew up as a competitive tennis player. By the age of 18, I became number one in the nation, top 8 in the junior world rankings, and 201 in the WTA rankings. My success heightened when I reached the third round of the U.S. Open, losing to former champion Maria Sharapova. I later received a full scholarship to Duke University where I held the number one position for 5 years and helped my team secure an ACC Championship and National Championship. It was my full intention to try and pursue a professional tennis career after college. Unfortunately during my senior year, my season was cut short because I was diagnosed with generalized epilepsy.

I first started having febrile seizures when I was three years old until the age of five. After that, my seizures subsided; my parents and doctors thought I had grown out of this phase. However, over the years I would have spells where I would stare off into space for about 30 seconds. WhenI would come to, I completely forgot where I was or what was happening. My friends would also make fun of me because from time to time. I would also randomly black out and fall to the floor.

It was my birthday weekend my senior year of college, and my whole family had come to Duke to watch my team play against Michigan. I remember going to breakfast with my parents and grandparents. Throughout the meal, my mom kept asking me if I was ok. After breakfast, I was about to get into the car to drive and luckily my mom insisted she drove. This was the last thing I remember. The next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital with excruciating pain in my left shoulder. I asked my mom what had happened. She told me that I had 3 grand mal seizures, with the first being so violent that I dislocated and fractured my shoulder just from the convulsions. An MRI, CAT scan, EEG, and a spinal tap later, I was officially diagnosed with generalized epilepsy. I learned that the staring spells and blackouts I was having prior to college were actually absence seizures which involves brief sudden lapses of consciences. Because of this diagnosis, I will be on medication for the rest of my life.

After finally adjusting to the right dosage of medication, I am happy to say that I have not had a seizure since 2016. I am living a normal and healthy life. Although I have put aside my professional tennis career, living with epilepsy has not prevented me from pursuing the sport I love. I have recently taken a position as the assistant women’s tennis coach at Yale University, where I get to play tennis with the girls every day.