I spoke with Missy Andrews-Beeman (not her real name) after her father’s assessment interview for the 88 Plan, the plan that the National Football League offers retirees struggling with behavioral health symptoms related to brain injury. Missy’s dad is considered one of the top Dallas Cowboys who ever played the game.
I wanted to know the behavioral symptoms that made her think her dad had CTE. Here is her list:
- Short term memory loss
- Losing and forgetting things
- Inability to complete common tasks
- Loss of interests/depression
- Withdrawing from any social interaction
Formally diagnosed with dementia in 2013, his symptoms have progressed to a level that Missy hoped he would qualify for the 88 Plan:
- He could no longer remember daily tasks
- He could not remember when driving where he was, or where he was going
- He would misplace his phone, so we had no way of contacting him
- He would forget to take his medications (all of which are CRUCIAL for his health)
- He would forget to change his clothes for a long period of time
- He would not remember what he needed to ask for help
- He would not remember to bathe
- He would get out of the car, but leave it running
- He struggled to get the words out to answer questions or tell you something
- He became frustrated and extremely anxious because of his inability to process his surroundings, or complete simple hobbies/tasks he used to enjoy.
I listened in on her dad’s uptake interview for the 88 Plan. The doctor’s questions and behaviors shocked me. For instance, Missy’s dad describes a job situation negatively impaired by memory loss. The doctor asks if there might have been other causes impairing his performance. How could her dad remember? Could he be a responsible teller of his own story? The job in question was 30 years ago. His persona, in many ways, was intact, but the content of his responses was inaccurate, something only daughters and wives seem to know. “They seem really coherent,” she said, “and it’s really a problem. He walks into a room and he looks so normal.”
Still—there was some shocking news in her father’s answers: The uppers. And the painkillers. She had never known her dad to use drugs at all, and she assumed he hadn’t.
“The Benzedrine—I was like What the Fuck—on the way home he said yeah, he said they gave them handfuls of them.”
In the locker room. Ample supplies of Benzedrine, a powerful stimulant, provided by the team’s medical staff. And painkillers too. The doctor implied that the drug use was going to be a problem for the 88 Plan application.
“I went off about the painkiller thing in that interview. One of the things I was mortified about was that—it has never come up, he has never talked about—he never touched the whole drug thing. He’s the most Catholic person I ever met in my whole life. He’s never even smoked a joint.”
Her statement knocked the wind out of me.
“[The doctor] said, ‘Just so you know, this is going to be a factor for people. This is going to come up in your 88.’ I can’t wait for somebody to say ‘He didn’t have to take the bennies man.’ You’re going to sit in there and your trainer is encouraging you… ‘here’s your pills go out there and play.’
“You created the monster, and now you’re going to punish these vulnerable players?”
Update: Missy submitted her dad’s application on June 6, 2017. His application was approved on September 1 for a dementia related in-home caregiver, out-of-pocket medical care, equipment, and prescription medications