Research helps Veteran-actor succeed despite TBI and related growth-hormone deficiency


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Lance Caver has no problem displaying a tough-guy look: goatee, tattoos, rock-solid face, squinty eyes, neatly cropped hair.

The 46-year-old Army Veteran has parlayed that image into an acting career, landing main roles as a biker, thug, detective, bartender and soldier in movies with small to large budgets. He’s now in two recently released films, the science fiction movie “Forbidden Power” and the horror movie “Beloved Beast.” He’s playing a school principal in “They Reach,” another horror film that is in production.

“Other Vets with TBI…have been very patient and understanding.”

Lance Caver

Lance Caver

Caver may be adept at assuming film roles, but he can’t escape the reality of two difficult health conditions he’s coping with: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and adult growth hormone deficiency (AGHD).

Serving in Iraq from 2003 to 2006, Caver says he got “hit hard” many times, including when a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into his Humvee.

He’s since experienced bad migraine headaches, as well as persistent neck and back pain. “I’ve just learned to live with it,” says Caver.

Among other complications, traumatic brain injuries can lead to AGHD. Caver got an AGHD diagnosis when he took part in a clinical trial of the drug Macrilen led by Dr. Jose Garcia of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. The research was aimed at testing a new, easier way to diagnose AGHD.

Caver’s AGHD symptoms include fatigue and weight gain. Caver, who is 5-feet-7, weighed no more than 180 pounds in Iraq. But he ballooned up to 240 after his honorable discharge from the service in 2008.

He’s now on human growth hormone medication and has reported feeling better overall, with increased energy levels and improvements in sleep and feelings of depression.

In the clinical trial, Garcia’s team found Macrilen comparable to the more traditional insulin tolerance test (ITT) for diagnosing AGHD. The trial led to FDA approval of the drug as a diagnostic test.

Caver in Iraq 2004

Caver in Iraq 2004

As a study participant, Caver tried both methods. He says he preferred the Macrilen test by far. It “was a piece of cake,” he says, compared with the more arduous ITT.

Caver still struggles with weight loss. Through healthy eating and regular exercise, mostly on the treadmill, he has dropped his weight to 215. But he’s had trouble losing more.

“I try to work out to what my headaches can tolerate,” he says. “My biggest thing now is figuring out how to drop the weight. I’d love to lose about 50 more pounds. I’m sure that will help with everything.”

The headaches also remain a problem. AGHD isn’t directly linked to headaches. But both may occur as a result of TBI.

“I’d never had headaches before, especially like these, until Iraq,” Caver says. “These headaches have since gotten worse and have never gone away.”

Caver continues battling his ailments so he can perform on movie sets. He sometimes struggles to remember lines when he’s presented with a lengthy dialogue. But he’s worked at times with other Vets with TBI in the acting business, noting that “most have been very patient and understanding” about the challenges he faces.

Author

Michael Richman

Mike Richman is a writer and editor in VA’s Office of Research and Development. He joined VA in 2016. He previously worked at the Voice of America, one of the U.S.-funded broadcast agencies.

Comments

  1. Babrak    

    I am forklift driver not working for US Army Afghanistan Kabul

  2. David Schare    

    When will the VA offer Stem Cell Rejuvenation to help in the healing of thousands of Veterans this has nothing less than great responses thank you

    1. Kathleen O'Hare-Palmer    

      I agree… when will the VA offer Stem Cell Rejuvenation programs for millions of us vets who have joint issues related to our service.

  3. DONALD E. FICHTNER    

    Lance should try going gluten-free, this worked for me after coming back from Afghanistan. I now think much clearer and I lost 40 lbs.

  4. Jon A. Stille    

    I hate what the Dr’s and the USA is doing to vets. I was an administrator for the VA in West Palm Beach Florida and I can tell you first-hand that they got two patients addicted to painkillers and expected them to get off to cover their own ass

    1. Cynthia Baca    

      Thank you for all you do and have done Mr. Stille. Do you see a solution to this problem; perhaps physician re-education? Or more robust patient accountability/check-ups. Grasping at ideas. Hoping for solutions.

    2. john hammack    

      AS a former VA employee, I was injured on duty and the fired without cause a short while later. They tried to deny my workman’s comp claim. and still are.
      My TBI injury is exactly as described in this article. Headaches vertigo, constant noises, and especially remembering simple tings is very difficult for me. Before the injury My Q measured at about 140. Now it is down to about 95. the VA neurological team thinks that is good enough.

  5. Jon A. Stille    

    I want to live in the country I served without having to take garbage like methadone or morphine I am not an addict I am dependent upon medicine that helps me cope with life for 60 years and a cranial nerve that was arbitrarily severed because the dentist got my wisdom tooth needed to be pulled but neglected to look at the nerve that surrounded that wisdom tooth in the only medicine that helped is what I get here in Costa Rica and if that is too much for the United States to handle then you live with it because you are the ones Dr psychiatrist that put the patient on The Addictive medicine in the first place leaving the patient nowhere else to go with the street and receiving Fentanyl or whatever they receive but I was able to dodge the bullet by coming to a beautiful country who believed in the veteran and not the bottom line

  6. Romain A Slabbaert    

    Howdy VA Personnel,

    With all the bad news received about the VA and its programs, it is satisfying to see that the VA has performed well.
    I am located in Kerrville, TX and I rate our VA Hospital very much above average. I do not participate in many of the offered services but the annual physical and the auditory program are excellent.

    I am a Co-Class Agent and the Web Master of our Texas A&M Class of 1955 and invite you to visit our Silver Taps section where we honor our fallen Vietnam Classmates. (https://classof1955.aggienetwork.com/

    Sincerely Yours,

    Romain A. Slabbaert Cold War Veteran.

  7. Thomas ODell    

    I am Located in Beckley West Virginia, I have been fighting the VA since 1959 for a TBI received in a auto accident after returning back to the states from Korea to Ft Knox Ky. Here it is 2018 and still no resolve, I have lost most of the use of my left arm because so much cortisone shot into my arm it eat up most muscle, can’t turn on signal light on my automobile because because of what they did can not reach the turn signal. I now have COPD, Heart failure, High Blood Pressure, Having a very difficult time coping with life at 83 yrs now. at total loss as what to do now except just pass away.

  8. Ralph Vander Loop    

    I am just another Disabled Vietnam Veteran!

  9. Ben    

    A lot of veterans keep running into the same problems over and over – – new boss same as old boss. VA should be leading the charge in diagnosis of TBI residuals for veterans seeking benefits for TBI, but they are still running into problems even after we exposed the TBI scandal in 2015.

    https://www.disabledveterans.org/2014/05/16/va-screwing-tbi-vets-quick-facts-tbi-evaluation/

  10. Dr. Tina Garcia JD, LLM    

    The Defense Veteran Brain Injury Centers (DVBIC) is a great resource of TBI information and inspiration. See the story posted about my recovery at : DVBIC-Dr. Tina Garcia
    My email is (redacted) if anyone wants more information

  11. Dr. Tina Garcia JD, LLM    

    Check out DVBIC-Dr. Tina Garcia

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