As a stuntwoman, I expected to get bumps and bruises, much like any other physical Career i.e. Football Players, Hockey Players, etc. I also have had explosions go off near me or actually had small explosions put on my body to make it appear as if I had been shot, much like our Soldiers.
Little did I know, whether the Director wanted me to hit my head, like the dead Cook in Clue, or a slight miscalculation on my part and ending up hitting my head, that I would end up with PCS (Post Concussion Syndrome), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
I started noticing that I was dizzy, off balance and feeling unbearable stress. I did go to my Doctor, who did various tests and who sent me to specialists, who also performed numerous tests. These tests would come back normal or negative because no one was looking for TBIs.
Finally unable to go on with my Career, due to physical injuries and these other unexplainable ailments, I filed a Workmen’s Comp Claim, which also included the injuries to my head. I also filed for Social Security Disability, which was, not uncommon, turned down. I hired an Attorney and filed an Appeal. With all this stress before I could go, my TBI and PTSD got the best of me and I suffered a nervous breakdown. Again, I was at the mercy of Doctors who have had no training in recognizing Brain Injuries and their symptoms. I was treated with antidepressants with only increased my anxiety and depression. There was a second opinion Doctor brought in who recommended that an MRI be done and that my medications could possibly be increasing my symptoms. This was noted in my charts but ignored, the MRI was not done and once released from then on all the Doctors and 2 other hospitals increased my medications. Finally electro shock therapy was done on my already injured brain. This all came about in 2003.
Now in 2004, having headaches and vomiting became the common for me. We finally had the SSDI Appeal Hearing. My Attorney instead of stressing my physical injuries to the Judge choose to go after the mental disability I had suffered in 2003, the year AFTER my 2002 application for SSDI. The Judge award me SSDI but unfortunately in the finding part of his judgment he only states severe depression. He did not add my physical impairments even though Social Security has my severe bad back listed. He did award me back to 2002, the year BEFORE my breakdown.
This, in turn, has cost me my Health Plan with the Screen Actors Guild Health Plan. The Plan is taking the position that TBIs do not cause depression. Had the Plan contacted Social Security, they would have known of my bad back and awarded me my Occupational Disability Health Plan. Also, if they would research TBIs and it effects, they would know that study upon study has been done on TBIs and depression, a direct results of my injuries on the set.
I continue my fight about TBIs in the Entertainment Industry and in fact have helped several stunt people, who suffered TBIs, get their Pension and Health Plans. It is my hope that someday the Plan will change their minds in my situation; I really want to be an Advocate, not a martyr in the fight for the recognition of TBIs. Doctors need to be educated to look for the cause and not “mask” the symptoms of TBIs as the solution with drugs that might harm the TBI Survivor further. Education about TBIs is a must for everyone, so that there will be diagnosing TBI Survivors and caring for them properly.