It’s the fall 2019 senior night at the Montclair State University women’s volleyball team’s last home game of the season. Three seniors step up. Two are dressed in full uniform while the last is in just her jersey and jeans. That player has butterfly stitches closing a cut on her forehead. She also has two black eyes and a swollen nose. That last athlete was Caitlin Lange.
Her appearance didn’t matter.
“I’m not a very look-at-me person,” Lange said.
The night before her senior game, the middle blocker had an epileptic seizure in which she broke her nose and cut her forehead. This caused her to be unable to play.
Lange, from Shamong, New Jersey, was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 16 years old and has struggled with epilepsy during her volleyball career since high school.
One of Lange’s first major seizures was during a volleyball game in her sophomore year of high school. She was stretching during her warmups, preparing herself to get in the game mentality and suddenly, everything went black. She woke up to paramedics leaning over her head, making sure she was okay.
While she has had some seizures during the day, she was diagnosed with nocturnal epilepsy, where a majority of her seizures happen while she is sleeping.
“Sometimes I will get injuries, and I can’t play because of the injuries because they are on my face,” Lange said.
Going into her freshman year of college during preseason, Lange had a seizure that changed her life. She woke up with a chipped tooth, broken nose and two big black eyes. She had no idea what had happened.
During those times, she found it frustrating when she was held back from playing a game because of uncontrollable circumstances. Lange took the bumps in the road that came and used them to motivate her as a player.
During her freshman season at Montclair State, the team won the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship. Lange continued to flourish, finishing her career ranked seventh in team history for most blocks with 226.
Though she attributed her success to “the fact that I am tall and can jump, and had the best team around me,” Lange certainly brought much more to the team.
“I put my heart and soul into the game,” Lange said. “It was and still is my world, and I miss it so much.”
Lange luckily got to finish out her senior season with a total of 61 blocks, ranking her second on the team.
Unfortunately with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many spring sport athletes lost their last season. When asked about how it would have felt to lose her last season, she says it would be absolutely heartbreaking. She could not imagine having her season taken away from her, but she acknowledged that this is an unusual time.
Though her college career may be over, she has some advice for other athletes who might be struggling with epilepsy.
“Don’t live your life in fear,” Lange said. “Just go with the flow. If it happens, it happens. There’s nothing you can really do about it. Nobody is out there making fun of you. It’s not a big deal. You might scare some people, but honestly just live with it. Just live your life.”
Lange would know. She never let a few black eyes and bruises get in her way.