'I Couldn't Move My Face'
updated 03/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 03/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT
There was a scene where my character was being grabbed by an intruder in a choke hold from behind. The actor I was working with was 6'6" and I'm 5'1". He kept pulling up and I couldn't speak. It hurt. After that we did a scene where he drags me down the stairs. Later that day I lost feeling in my hands. I had a bad headache and my neck was sore. They gave me Advil, and I thought everything was going to be fine. A couple of days later the headaches were so bad I broke down in tears on-set. Then part of my face wasn't moving. I called the assistant director and I said, "I can't control the left side of my face." It was paralyzed, and my chin hurt to touch. I felt like I looked like the Joker.
The next day, I flew home to see my doctors. At the airport I knew people were looking at me. I tried to prepare my family, the kids. Their faces were heart-wrenching for me. I tried to lighten things by saying "It's okay, guys. What's the funniest face you can do?" That night, when I was in bed, I started to have spasms where my face and my neck would move uncontrollably. Charlie held my head so it wouldn't hit the wall.
I was losing my speech. I went to several doctors. I have permanent damage to my facial nerves. I went to the UCLA Movement Disorder Clinic, and after two years of tests and constant monitoring they have finally found the right medication that keeps the spasms under control. I did a lot of acupuncture and physical therapy. Six months after the injury occurred the paralysis in my face eased. I couldn't work for a year. Then I went to do a very low-budget movie so I wouldn't have to go through the insurance, just to see if I could do it. There were times on the set when it was late and there was some physical stuff and I would spasm. I would take my medicine, and the medicine would make it better. I'm still working on my speech, but I do a lot of voice-acting work. My agent is the best. I make a good living.
I try to do as much with the kids as I can. Certain things trigger the spasms, like cold weather and loud music. I can't go skiing or to the girls' winter soccer games. When I spasm, Mollie will go to kiss my face and she'll say, "I'm healing you now, Mommy."
This has been a real journey, and I'll probably be on meds for the rest of my life. But I don't look at myself as a victim. I'm blessed that I wasn't paralyzed forever. The fact that I have this doesn't mean that I can't live my life.