Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Julie Sokolow

Julie Sokolow is a musician, writer, and filmmaker based in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the creator of the Healthy Artists documentary series, in which young creatives discuss their struggles with the American health care system.

November 30th, 2013 6:14 PM

Uninsured Artist Kickstarts a New Set of Teeth

“I’m a storyteller, so I like Kickstarter,” Dan says.

His words emerge lispingly. It’s either because of the phone connection or his broken teeth.

He continues, “Anticipation mixed with uncertainty is the definition of drama.”

Dan McCloskey is a 26-year-old writer and comic book artist living in Pittsburgh, PA. When he’s not penning hybrid novels such as A Film About Billy or performing readings in warehouses, art spaces, and universities across the US, he’s helping other artists. In 2009 he founded Cyberpunk Apocalypse, a residency program that's provided over 37 artists of national and international merit with a free place to stay: his house.

“I call it a close quarters residency,” he says. “You come home and there are two dogs running around, a ton of people working, and twenty college students learning letterpress in the hallway.”

Cyberpunk makes other residencies seem posh by comparison. It was even featured in the 2010 New York Times article “Chilled by Choice” on artists who work in spaces with wood stoves and little to no heat. The group’s emphasis on modest living includes bike riding – often their primary mode of transportation.

“We’re young, working, poor kids who ride our bikes a lot,” Dan says. “Of course everyone falls, it’s just about when and how hard.”

On October 22nd 2013, Dan and a fellow writer were riding their bikes home when the high beams from an oncoming car flashed brightly at them. The lights obscured a deep pothole ahead. Dan’s front tire fell in and he was sent flying before hitting the ground.

“I blacked out. When I woke up, I could tell my front teeth were gone,” he says.

An ambulance took him to a nearby hospital, where a team of doctors rushed him to the trauma center. They cut off his clothes, placed him in a neck brace, and gave him x-rays and PET scans. A plastic surgeon arrived to stitch up his lips over the next three hours.

“I didn’t have insurance, but at least I have a face right now,” he says.

Dan is currently applying for Emergency Medicaid, which would cover his bills from the night of the accident. To restore his teeth, he’ll need $11,000 of dental work, including bone grafting and the insertion of titanium screws, completed over the span of six months to a year. By commissioning dental students rather than long-time professionals to work on his mouth, Dan’s reduced the bill to $4,500.

“My Kickstarter was in progress before the accident. Afterwards, I was left with the choice to cancel the project or work harder. I did the latter,” he says.

There are seven days left in his campaign for Top of the Line – a monster fighting comic book that coincidentally features a bike-riding protagonist with missing teeth. On November 20th, he launched a 24-hour-long drawing marathon to promote the project, which he streamed live online. Twenty other artists have joined Dan’s campaign, auctioning off their work as bonus gifts to project backers.

“I had a lot of friends that wanted to help, but didn’t know how,” he says. “Artists don’t have a lot of money.”

Help Dan meet his $6,500 Kickstarter goal.  Get a copy of Top of the Line for yourself or give one as a holiday gift.

Top photo by Sarah LaPonte.

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