According to state workers' compensation records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, in 1996, Suleman earned her psychiatric technician license from and began working at Metropolitan State Hospital, a mental hospital in Southern California. It was there that she sustained the injury that led to the workers' compensation claim.
The documents reveal that in 1999 nearly two dozen patients rioted in the women's ward at the hospital. As she was helping other staffers restrain a patient, a desk thrown at her by another patient hit her in the back. The injury caused disc protrusions in her lumbar spine, and left her complaining of headaches and intense pain throughout her lower body for years. She went on state disability and was paid nearly $170,000 in disability benefits between 2000 and 2008 for injuries to her back, neck and shoulder.The single mother gave birth to most of her six other children during the time she was on disability, exacerbating the injury. One doctor, after examining her for the state, attributed 90% of her injury to the work incident and 10% to her pregnancy.
State documents indicate that Suleman testified during a hearing on her case in December 2001 that her pregnancy had aggravated her back condition. She said she spent most of the day in bed and was unable to care for her first child.
In addition to the injury reports, state documents reveal that Suleman had three failed pregnancies prior to becoming a mother. She reportedly said "I just wanted to die. I suspected I was pregnant but I thought 'that's ridiculous.' " But the birth of the baby "helped my spirits." In addition, she said she was depressed with "recent thoughts of death." She told a doctor evaluating for the state her that the depression was related to "the powerful and uncontrollable emotions associated with her pregnancy: both the fear that it would end and her elation that it might be brought to fruition and she would realize her dream of having a child."
As for Suleman's failed marriage, according to the records she attributed much of her break-up with her ex-husband to the pain and suffering sustained in the riot. She told a psychiatrist the bouts of depression she was suffering as a result of her injury were unfair to her husband. "I don't want to keep bringing him down. I want him to move on with his life," she told a psychiatrist. The couple then split in 2000, and were officially divorced last year.
In related news, the Medical Board of California has confirmed they are investigating whether there were any violations by the fertility doctor who treated Suleman. Board spokeswoman Candis Cohen says the board will determine whether there was a violation of medical standards.