Indy muralist injured saving child’s life faces physical, financial pain

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A popular Indy muralist saved a child's life, but her heroic efforts are causing her financial and physical pain.

"Imagine losing feeling in your right arm when you're a muralist, an artist," Holly Combs said of her injuries. Holly and her husband, Dave, are the masterminds behind several murals in Indianapolis, including the "You Are Beautiful" sign in Fountain Square and the "Love Train" on the Monon Trail. They also founded "Peel," an art magazine named after Dave's love for sticker art.

Their success pushed the couple into a different income bracket, which forced the duo to lose health care they could afford, and to quit being artists in favor of jobs with health care benefits. The couple had been paying roughly $1,000 a month. "As an artist, you're always thinking about how you make your art form something you can do and provide a living for your family. Be able to eat, able to provide health care for your family," Holly said.

Last year, Holly became a teacher, and she saved a student's life by grabbing a 6-year-old boy who was running into the street as a bus came toward him.

"You don't think about it. If someone needs your help, you help them. He dropped so many times. He pulled my whole arm off my body, but I was not going to let go," Holly said, getting emotional. "I did not want to see him get hit by that bus. It was really scary. "The heroic act injured her spine and shoulder. Doctors placed a titanium plate in her neck with four screws. The surgery came with risks, but Holly said the pain was unbearable. "We are going to cut a little hole," Holly recounted the doctor telling her while motioning to the front of her neck, "move it all over, but you might lose your voice for the rest of your life."

Thankfully, she did not, and the spinal surgery was covered by workers compensation. However, further shoulder surgery was not. A second opinion on the shoulder injury could have proven it came from the incident, but would have cost thousands of dollars, so Holly signed paperwork and accepted the result.

She has the best health insurance offered from her employer, and yet it will still cost her family $6,000 out of pocket. Holly wants her story to be a warning to any employer offering this type of high deductible health care. "People are not getting the care they need because they cannot pay for out of pocket and also pay the premiums," Holly said.

Normally, Holly spends summer break doing murals for further income, but that is unlikely to happen due to the surgery.

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