Melissa Gilbert, famous for her role as Laura Ingalls Wilder, aka “Half-Pint,” on Little House on the Prairie, has dealt with a difficult history of health issues.
Hey, I know what you’re thinking, “actors”, right? Always making a deal out of nothing. I mean come on, everybody deals with a health issue or two at some point in their life. How bad could hers be? Well, it turns out, they are very serious indeed.
To the praise and support of her fans, Gilbert has been opening up recently about her physical adversities and her recovery following a life-altering spinal surgery. Stay tuned as we take a closer look at the health issues which have been plaguing this actress for over a decade.
Life after the Prairie
Renowned for her role as Half-Pint on the iconic American show, Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert has moved on from the show to do incredibly well for herself. Gilbert had a stint on Broadway and most notably became the President of the Screen Actors Guild – a position she held for four years.
Melissa was born to a newlywed couple who put her up for adoption, as they were unable to handle the pressures of raising a child. She was adopted by American film and television actor, Paul Gilbert and his wife, Barbara Crane. With her adoptive parents both entertainers, Melissa learned about the inner workings of the entertainment industry at an early age.
This led to her growing up in front of the camera which Melissa has stated made her life more open to the public than she would have preferred. She is the mother of two biological children and has adopted a further three children.
Melissa is not new to injuries
The Little House on the Prairie star has dealt with her fair share of serious injuries that have required major surgeries. She had her first spinal fusion surgery in her neck in 2001. She then had a second spinal surgery after breaking her back in 2010.
Two herniated discs in her spine, which were caused by head and neck injuries in 2012, led to her third surgery. One of these injuries that led to the third surgery was sustained during her participation on Dancing With the Stars. She suffered whiplash and a concussion that resulted from a fall while performing on stage.
But the third surgery wasn’t as successful as everyone hoped. It didn’t fuse, which caused a lot of serious pain for the star. She was informed that the hardware from the surgery was boring holes into her vertebra above and below.
The drama and injuries continued when, a few months later, the balcony of a house she was renting collapsed on her. Melissa’s been dealing with spinal issues ever since.
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When did Melissa’s head hit the floor on Dancing With the Stars?
When Melissa Gilbert competed on the 2012 season of Dancing With the Stars, the actress suffered a mysterious injury. The spectators and the audience at home were unclear of what happened to the actress.
Gilbert was quick to update her fans via Twitter where she revealed that she suffered a concussion and whiplash during her dance performance that night. But people were quick to question what happened. Just when the injury actually occurred became the subject of intense debate amongst the fans.
Gilbert’s rep revealed to Access Hollywood that the injury occurred when she hit her head on the ballroom floor. This was also confirmed by several of Gilbert’s Dancing With the Stars co-stars. Actress and comedian, Sherri Shepherd, explained to Us Weekly, “She hit her head during her dance, and then after she felt a little dizzy so they took her to the hospital just to get checked out and make sure she was okay,”
American singer, Gavin DeGraw, also noted that Gilbert had hit the back of her head and assumed that she may have hit her head on the floor at some point during the dance. But according to some eagle-eyed viewers of the show, the debate came down to whether the incident actually happened at all.
Gilbert’s dance partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who’s also a Latin–ballroom dance champion, choreographer, and instructor, took a tumble during the paso doble routine. However, some viewers claim that there’s no moment from the night’s dance that clearly shows Gilbert’s head hitting the floor.
But, TODAY.com contributor Linda Carroll, co-author of The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic, stepped in to clear things up. She informed the media that it is possible to get a concussion without even hitting your head. An analogy she uses is that a person’s brain is like a passenger in a car riding without a seat belt. The car slams to a stop and the passenger slams into the windshield. Similarly, if a person is tackled in football and suddenly comes to a stop, their brain keeps moving and can slam into the skull.
Carroll said that she watched the episode wondering which move could have caused Gilbert’s concussion. Despite being unable to see a possible moment of impact, it wasn’t hard to see how she could have sustained an injury after giving such a tremendous performance.
Especially given her history of spinal injuries and the snapping moves in the performance, the pain and possible injuries she sustained aren’t hard to explain.
Gilbert drops out of Congress race due to spinal injury
In 2016, Gilbert was unable to continue in her race for a congressional seat in Michigan. Due to the pain and injuries over the years, particularly those sustained in 2012, it was beginning to take its toll on Gilbert’s body.
On May 24th of that year, she made her announcement, stating that even with the best possible treatment and therapy she could have asked for, the injuries had only gotten worse. It broke her heart, but it was her doctors who told her that she wasn’t physically able to continue her run for Congress.
The former child star had decided to run as a Democrat in August 2015. She was vocal about her goals to make life easier for all the families who felt that they had fallen through the cracks in today’s economy. She believed that building a new economy was a team effort and it was necessary to bring fresh voices to the table in order to get the job done.
She promised voters that she would fight to increase incomes for working families, ensure that companies provided paid sick and family leave to their workers, give every child access to state-of-the art education, and ensure women received equal pay for equal work.
With such positive promises and forward thinking goals, it’s a true shame that Gilbert was never able to reach her full potential in the political world.
Melissa shares updates on her “life-altering” fourth spinal surgery
With the failure of her third surgery and ongoing pain, Gilbert had her fourth spinal surgery in 2020. She decided to go with Dr. Robert Bray, the doctor who did her first spinal surgery. This procedure took place at DISC Sports & Spine Center in Newport Beach.
Gilbert went into detail on her most recent surgery, stating that the biggest difference was that Dr. Bray went in and took out a lot of the hardware, particularly the hardware that didn’t work. She got an artificial disc, which is very cutting edge.
Although it’s been around for awhile, it is new and revolutionary. Gilbert explained that it’s now set her up so that she will hopefully have no more spinal problems.
The actress claimed that she was channeling her famous Little House on the Prairie character, Half-Pint’s strength, during her fourth surgery. She stated that her character was the one who believed anything is possible.
Almost three weeks post-surgery, Gilbert announced that she was feeling really good. Despite the dramatic nature of the surgery, it was the precautions she took to fly to California that were most exaggerated.
Since the surgery took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, extra precautions were inevitable. She had to be tested negative to get on the plane, then tested negative before the surgery. This was followed by the biggest part of all, the surgery itself which was then followed by another test to make sure she was negative.
Gilbert detailed that she wore a mask, face shield, gloves and was so careful throughout the whole trip. Having spoken out about her injuries and this most recent surgery, Gilbert has received great support from her fans which has really moved her.
She said in an interview, “What has really opened my eyes and made me feel like I made the right choice in going public with all this is all of the people who are suffering from similar issues and chronic pain issues and spine issues who say, ‘I’m so glad to hear your story, it gives me hope,’ or ‘I’ve been through this and I’m on the other side of this, it really is miraculous and congratulations.'”
Gilbert claims that this has been a real driver for her and made the entire process that much more incredible. The actress is grateful for her health, especially now that her family is growing and she’s a Grandma.
Are you inspired by how Melissa’s overcome such adversity, or have you dealt with similar health issues yourself?
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