In November of 2019 I had a near-fatal incident in which I was sent to the ER and subsequently hospitalized due to a perforated ulcer. This was a complication from severe Crohn's Disease in tandem with anemia and thalassemia that made this hospitalization so serious. After my hospital stay, my GI doctor informed me that the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors I've been taking to manage my symptoms and inflammation are aren't working. Additionally, I've developed antibodies to drugs such as humira and remicade (which, by the way, were an arduous uphill battle to get covered by my insurance), so my flare-ups are back in full force. As though that's not enough, my pain and discomfort is exacerbated by my enteropathic arthritis, which can't be addressed by my rheumatologist until I start a biologic called Stelara, which is yet another gamble in the hopes that it will work. In the meantime I am required to maintain regular appointments with radiology, hematology, and cardiology because of how interconnected my Crohn's-related complications are.
Because of all of this I'm being forced to take a medical leave of absence from the MFA program while I recover and start new treatment. This upcoming semester was supposed to be my last in the program and puts me in a very difficult situation with regards to employment and health insurance. My school health insurance plan, which I paid for out of pocket, is only active when I'm enrolled as a student, which means I'll be losing my coverage as of January 31st of 2020. Additionally, I'll no longer be able to continue my two work study positions, as well as the predicament that my chronic pain has drastically affected my ability to do sex work or freelance photography. Thus, my income has basically come to a complete halt.
My medical costs, still piling on, are reaching $1500. With incessant doctor's appointments I am in need of funds to cover accessible transportation, not to mention the infinite co-pays. I also have regular human expenses such as rent, groceries, and utilities.
One last thing I want to say that is too long to go into here has been my treatment at the University of Pennsylvania. If you follow me or know me personally you know that my struggles with this university have been well-documented over the nearly two years I've been in the program. I've endured so much at the hands of this program that have made me confront ableist and patently transphobic behavior that I have never felt with such regularity pm institutional level since being in academia. My first year they put my studio on the third floor of a building without an elevator. I've been touched without my consent by another student during critique and then laughed at by faculty. I've forsaken my physical health for the sake of meeting the class-wide schedule that accommodates for able-bodied reviews. The department lied about the funding I received to attend, causing me to take out a student loans to afford the school's expensive insurance when I had just arrived. I thought I would have gained some iota of privilege, but I've never been so painfully aware of how marginalized I am as a black, chronically ill queer in academic settings. It's taken a lot of doing for me not to feel like taking this leave makes me some kind of failure, but this school has put me through hell and failed to meet me even a third of the way with the self-advocacy I've had to do. Grad school was the reason I came to Philadelphia in the first place.
I want to make a difference in art education. I want to be everything these people weren't and give a voice to other people who face similar adversity. This is a setback but I am going to see this through. I just need help crawling across this finish line. Even if you can't donate anything, please share if you can.