"A de-gloving of the lower left extremity" is the medical term for the injury that I sustained on Thursday, February 13, 2014. A de-gloving usually results in amputation. Just a few hours before, I had been your average uninsured 25-year-old, struggling, trying to make it in New York City on the way to an (unpaid) gig. In less than a day, I became the poster child for Obamacare.
Before the accident, my career as a stand-up comedian and actress had been thriving. I had just come off an audition for Saturday Night Live, and although I wasn't hired, being "looked at" by NBC got me an amazing manager, who sent me on my first pilot season. My first real, on-camera audition was for Orange Is the New Black, and I couldn't have felt more inspired.
My personal life, however, had been suffering. After getting five months behind on my $900 rent in Crown Heights, I had to move out. I rented a U-Haul van to keep all my things in and, occasionally, to sleep in. Finding stable work was hard; I was barely getting by with freelance gigs and part-time work, from which I made just enough for a MetroCard and food. Unpaid internships were falling out of the sky, though. Health care didn't cross my mind. I've never been the type to get sick or catch winter colds, and even if I do feel one coming on, I can usually nip it in the bud with home remedies like ginger tea, turmeric, or an aloe-vera plant.
One morning during Fashion Week, I was booked to shoot a comedy video with another up-and-coming comedian, John Early. The premise of the video was for John and me to come in with prewritten jokes about the movie Cruel Intentions. I had never seen it, and neither had John. So we decided to meet early (ha) to watch it, write our jokes, and then head to the set. I left my friend's place in SoHo, where I'd crashed the night before, to find a full-on blizzard outside. Up to that point, I'd been keeping my clothing in the van. But it had been towed, so I was without the majority of my heavy coats and winter clothing. I've also never been a big breakfast person, so I hadn't eaten. I can clearly hear Michelle Obama's voice saying "Young people think they're invincible" during a promo for Obamacare.
I had no idea how the accident happened. I still don't. But I woke up on the tracks of the train. My left leg was pinned underneath the wheel of the first train car. Most of the skin was gone, and a lot of bone was exposed. I was taken to Bellevue Hospital — the oldest hospital in the nation and soon to be my new home for the next two and a half months of my life.
"Do you have insurance?" became a regular question that brought me to tears to answer. Every blood-transfusion request from a well-meaning doctor turned into an argument, with me screaming that I couldn't afford it to the poor sap who was just trying to save my life. I knew my medical bills were piling up, and I knew they weren't going to be cheap. I learned about emergency Medicaid, to which I was entitled because my injury was severe and I was uninsured. However, I didn't learn about this through my social worker. I learned about it from my friend Jordana, whose mother works at a hospital in Queens. I don't know what I would have done without them.
Not only were Jordana and her mother helping me, but the comedy communities in New York and Los Angeles were beginning to help me as well. Sue Smith, a comedian at Upright Citizens Brigade and a good friend of mine, created a YouCaring page to help raise money for my medical bills, and before we knew it, big-name comedians like Aziz Ansari, Louis CK, and Chelsea Peretti were all donating, tweeting, and organizing benefit shows. (My bills, by the way, came to a whopping total of $405,000.)