When epilepsy put Mackenzie out of work, she found a new way to make ends meet: streaming herself playing games. From Street Fighter experts with no arms to quadraplegic Diablo champions, a growing number are finding an unlikely source of income – and a real sense of community
In the summer of 2014, Mackenzie had just started working two minimum-wage jobs in Colorado when she suffered a major epileptic seizure at home, one that left her reeling and disoriented. She was home alone and, following the attack, too bewildered and drowsy to know to call in sick. The infraction was enough to earn Mackenzie, who was 22 at the time, a so-called “no call, no show” blot on her record from each employer – a restaurant, where she worked tables, and a gym. While both companies knew about Mackenzie’s history of severe seizures, this was, they said, grounds for dismissal. She was told not to return to work. “I’m in the process of fighting it,” she tells me. “But both companies have a lot of money … ”
Mackenzie’s seizures are so severe – she was featured earlier this year on MTV’s True Life: I Have Epilepsy – that she is unable to drive (or climb, or swim, or wield a knife, among many other things). Neither will she take the bus to work because, if she suffers a fit on board, well-meaning members of the public inevitably call for an ambulance to take her to the hospital – a costly trip in the US. Indeed, Mackenzie’s medical debts currently total more than $30,000. Jobs that are walking distance from her home are hard to find, and harder still to hold down.