WJBF EXTRA: Swinging For Sleep - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: Swinging For Sleep

By Chris Kane

In the mid-90's, Nicole Jeray’s professional golf career was just starting to take off. Making birdies wasn’t a problem for the Augusta resident, but trying to stay awake for an entire round was pure torture

“The overwhelming urge to fall asleep is what I call it. It’s so overwhelming,” said Nicole. “It’s a terrible feeling.”

For Nicole, it’s a “feeling” that has stayed with her for more than two decades. “Throughout college, I was always falling asleep in my classes and driving my car, “said Jeray. I’d be driving my car to college and then I’d wake up in a parking lot somewhere thinking, how did I end up here?”

The drowsiness got worse. “There were many times I’d sit in my car and cry because I’m driving home from my golf tournament and to my housing and I can’t stay awake.” During her second year on the LPGA Tour, a diagnosis changed Nicole’s life forever. “I went and got a sleep study done..classic case of Narcolepsy. I experienced all 5 symptoms,” said Nicole.

Narcolepsy is a serious, chronic sleep disorder…affecting one in two-thousand people. Jeri Jones is the manager of the center for sleep disorders for Doctors Hospital. “Narcolepsy is so incredibly difficult to diagnose,” Jones said. “Most of these patients are extremely sleepy during the day. They are always taking naps and for someone to be on the LPGA Tour like herself and not being able to take those naps. It’s amazing that she’s been able to golf at all.”

In 1995, Nicole was 30th on the LPGA Tour money list. She does wonder where her career would be today if she didn’t have narcolepsy. “In 1995, I was doing so well and getting ready to be #1 in the world in my brain,” said Jeray. “Having a great year and playing with the best players in the world, then having this overwhelming urge to fall asleep all the time..it was tough. I would be in this trance. An automatic behavior type sleep for a hole or two at a time. My caddy would try to put ice on my back to wake me up and I’d walk backward and run. Anything I could do to snap out of it. When I look back on how I used to play at the highest level, the LPGA Tour, falling down 10-20 times a day….so tired, just taking 5 naps in one day just to get through the day. I have no idea how I did it.”

These days, Nicole spends a lot of her time practicing at Jones Creek Golf Club. 2:00

With better medication, she’s now sleeping 4-to-5 hours a night. Next year, her goal is to play full-time on the LPGA Tour.

I would love to win an LPGA golf tournament, so I can talk more about narcolepsy and people are going to actually listen,” Ncole said. “Right now, I’m raising all kinds of money through my swing for sleep program. I think I raised $37,000, but the people aren’t turning their heads, but if I won an LPGA tournament they would turn their heads more and listen and I think that would be great.” 

“Hopefully, I’m making a difference in the world of narcolepsy and still a great role model. I might not be #1 in the world, but I’m still doing something I love, so it’s all good.

For more information on how you can be involved, please visit NicoleJeray.com. So far in 2012, $37,000 has been raised.

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