Serendipity of 'a doctor in the house' saves a dancer who collapses on stage

Heidi Evans, New York Daily News, 5/2/12 [hat tip to Jamie Bishton]

It almost sounds like the old joke: Is there a doctor in the house? But when a 22-year-old dancer collapsed at a recent performance, the answer was gravely serious. Andrew Wollowitz, a director of emergency medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, was sitting in the audience and realized something was terribly wrong about 10 minutes into the piece. "Stop the show!" the doctor recalled someone shouting at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. "Call 911!" Wollowitz rushed to the stage from the fifth row of the darkened theater and checked for the man's pulse. "He wasn't alive, so I started compressions," Wollowitz said, describing the near tragedy on April 19. Paramedics appeared a short time later, and prepped [the young man] for a ride to Bellevue Hospital, where he spent five nights. He is a recent graduate of SUNY Purchase, where Wollowitz's wife taught him modern dance. The dancer said he had no idea what happened until his fellow dancers and mom told him when he awoke at Bellevue. "I was running back upstage and doing a handstand, then from there, I don't remember what happened," he said. "I didn't feel anything. The next thing I knew was I was in the hospital." Doctors think he suffered a rare arrhythmia, which is more prevalent among young athletic men and women than previously believed.


Commentary: Help for dancers and other artists with little or no health insurance

Stephanie Wolf.,, May 2012

A dancer's ability to work is dependent on optimal health. Proper healthcare is essential for longevity in the dance profession. But many American dancers are under- or uninsured due to the rising costs of healthcare and the complexity of applying for an insurance plan. Finding affordable health insurance is a dizzying feat, especially for freelance dancers. Many dancers fall into the 10 to 11% of Americans who get their insurance through the individual healthcare market and dancers are amongst the highest percentage of uninsured artists. High premiums make it challenging to find the right plan. Additionally, because of the intense physicality of the dance profession, many have difficulty getting approved for a plan because of a pre-existing condition. The information is overwhelming, but the reassuring aspect is that there are organizations and individuals striving to give dancers the healthcare they deserve. Starting in January 2014, laws and guidelines surrounding healthcare in this country will change drastically, especially if the Supreme Court rules in favor of a major mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Thus, the 'game,' as we know it, will change. Resources to get insured or access to affordable healthcare:


FROM TC: You may also be interested in Fractured Atlas' online resources "The Artists' Guide to Health Insurance" and "The Artists' Guide to Health Reform."


In Oregon, union musicians back a single-payer healthcare system

Northwest Labor Press, 4/3/12

The American Federation of Musicians was an early endorser of a national campaign promoting a single-payer health care system. Bruce Fife, president of Local 99 and an international vice president of the AFM, said the industry began to unravel starting in 1978, following a court ruling that declared musicians independent contractors. The decision stemmed from a lawsuit the music industry filed against the union. "It took time for the lawsuit to affect the industry," Fife said. "But it changed the whole dynamic in so many ways." [Symphony musicians are the exception. In fact, Local 99 recently ratified a new three-year contract with the Oregon Symphony that provides 100% employer-paid health insurance.] Fife said one of the first things he did as president of the union was to reach out to Kaiser Permanente to acquire health insurance for musicians. [But] Kaiser determined it was impossible to provide a health care package because musicians have too many different employers. "So we turned our focus to single-payer," Fife said. Reforming the health care system to a single-payer format would benefit all Oregonians, supporters say, by replacing an expensive and complicated system -- dominated by a multitude of private insurance companies -- with a single non-profit agency that would collect and distribute funds equitably and fairly. Norman "The Boogie Cat" Sylvester, one of the premier bluesmen on the West Coast, said: "One of the biggest health care issues out there is stress. Stress can lead to a bunch of other bad things. Having universal health care would take a lot of the stress out of peoples' lives." Today, at 66, Sylvester is in his second year under Medicare, a program that single-payer health care advocates would like to emulate.


Visual effects artists "work inhuman schedules without health insurance"

Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times, 4/20/12

They called it the zombie walk. After midnight, when the coffee and Red Bull had worn off, Sari Gennis and her co-workers would take a brisk stroll to make it through their graveyard shift. For four months straight, often seven days a week, a team of visual effects artists worked 12-hour shifts to complete the 3-D conversion of movie blockbuster "Titanic." Gennis said the long hours aggravated a severe arthritis condition. She'd already had both knees replaced, and needed a third surgery, but couldn't afford to take time off for the operation. "If I continue these kind of hours, it could kill me," the visual effects veteran said. Visual effects is a booming business. But the artists who create the effects, crouched over computers using software to create digital images, complain they're often employed in electronic sweatshops, work inhuman schedules and without health insurance or pensions. Now some are fighting back, beginning an effort to lobby for union protection. IATSE President Matt Loeb said last year that organizing these workers -- more than 10,000 of whom make their homes in California -- was one of his top priorities as leader of one of Hollywood's most powerful unions. The Animation Guild is preparing a class-action lawsuit against several of them, alleging they are violating federal labor laws by routinely misclassifying visual effects artists as independent contractors or freelancers, even though they report to work, have a supervisor and use company equipment.


FROM TC: Here's a related interview with some visual effects artists who are demanding better working conditions at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

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