Facing Off

As we made our way into the courtroom, the sheer size of the room nearly took our breath away. In addition, it was the first week of January and all the courtrooms were being remodeled, which meant no heat, construction noise and limited places to sit and have a meeting or consultation with lawyers or witnesses. We had quite the crew…three attorneys, a paralegal, my parents, husband and me.

We arrived first and about 10 minutes later, Dr. Liar and his two attorney’s walked in. The door to the courtroom was in the back of the massive room. We all looked back at the same time and saw them walking up the middle of the aisle. I don’t think I thought about seeing ‘him’ in court. He attended one deposition, his own, where he was caught in a series of lies, but the only time he looked at me was when he asked my attorney if he could leave. Then, as he stood up, he stared at me. And, if looks could have killed…I would have died. However, not having done anything wrong, I stared right back. He was the one who looked away.

Sitting in a courtroom was rather intimidating. We were introduced to the judge ~ from a distance of course. Was this the infamous judge who we had heard so much about during the past two years? She wasn’t what I had expected.  Although a judge with all the authority that comes with the position, she seemed to display a small sense of kindness ~ surely not what I had expected. So much time went into planning, preparing, researching, interviewing and meeting with their experts and ours; I found it hard to believe that we were actually there. It felt almost surreal since I was still having trouble accepting the fact that this had happened. Again, it felt like I was living someone else’s life. However, I knew we had to speak out. I had to medicate myself more than usual and oftentimes felt numb. I guess it was God’s way of helping me get through the day.

Dr. Liar sat directly across from me and, surprisingly, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. I wasn’t suing him because I wanted to ruin his career. I was doing what I had to for the others he operates on as well as because he lied. I have never been able to respect anyone who lied. When I looked at him, he did everything he could not to look back. However, tears began to fill my eyes since I honestly liked him until I realized all he said since the surgery was one lie after another. After all, I bought he and his wife baby gifts since they were having twin girls. Was I crying for him, for being so naive, because we were in a court of law, or simply crying for the turn my life had taken? I honestly didn’t know.

All of the attorneys had massive amounts of containers filled with paperwork. As they prepared for the beginning of the case, I felt as if I was on display. Maybe I was. They kept addressing me in third person as if I wasn’t there. Dr. Liar just sat in his chair and read through medical files and journals. He acted disinterested.

There is a song on my iPod that I listened to during physical therapy. The song, by Martina McBride, is God’s Will ~ one line that kept planning in my mind was “I’ve been wounded, jaded, loved and hated.”  That was the perfect theme for myself during those days in court.

We were seated at a rectangular table to the left of the judge and Dr. Liar and his team were to her right. Perhaps we should have been better prepared for the logistics of the trial. The formality of court proceedings is something that seems out of touch with reality. Even the language used is foreign. I had taken Latin in high school, but legal terms must have their own unique dictionary privy only to judges, court personnel, attorneys and their many assistants.

The defense attorney, although polished and professional, was a whiner and acted very immature at times. Oftentimes, I felt like grabbing my cane and limping over to hand him a tissue. I was the one who was injured, but he was the one who sat around feeling sorry for himself when a decision by the judge didn’t go his way. I understand we all have feelings and emotions, but if I was able to hold things together and act my age, why couldn’t he? I expected so much more.

As far as most court cases go, this one began with selecting the jury. There were 40 individuals who were led into the courtroom. The potential jury members were asked questions by both the defense and our attorney regarding their backgrounds, careers and their opinion regarding medical malpractice and the local hospital. Nearly all of the potential jurors either worked at the hospital where my injury occurred or had a family member with some affiliation to the hospital. When asked about any other connections to the doctor or the hospital many spoke out about their love for the hospital. There was also a woman who raised her hand and said that I didn’t look sick and that she would have difficulty believing there was anything wrong with me. Now I was the one who was being called a liar. What was damaging was that all potential jurors heard that comment. “I didn’t look sick.” What does ‘sick’ look like? How were we going to explain all I had been through? How could we make them understand?  Did I need to be in a wheelchair to look sick? I remember thinking that it’s a sad world we live in labeling people without hearing the facts.

While I felt it wasn’t a panel of jurors who were my peers, the attorney’s seemed to select the best representation. We had no input. When interviewing jurors one-on-one, the attorney’s stood closely to the judge’s bench and asked questions. My husband and I sat at the table while all of this was taking place — when we looked up Dr. Liar was there. How were we supposed to ignore him even if we wanted?

The first day following the jury selection began with opening arguments from both attorneys. What I learned is that in opening arguments you tell the jury what you are going to prove. Set the expectations. That is what was done. Our attorney explained I was injured by the hand of Dr. Liar and how he set in motion deceit, hid the truth and deviated from the standard of care. He went into detail about what happened during the surgery, how he left for vacation immediately following my surgery and didn’t have another neurosurgeon check on me while in the Intensive Care Unit. Our attorney also explained all it took for us to uncover what was really wrong with me. He told my story very clearly and even discussed how he was going to prove the wrongdoing and the lies by Dr. Liar and the hospital.

One item that caught us by surprise is that the defense attorney announced in his opening arguments that Dr. Liar was not board certified. It was like someone punched me in the stomach. Prior to my surgery, my husband and I asked Dr. Liar if he was board certified and how many procedures he had completed. He answered our questions without hesitation and in such a matter of fact way. In fact, the hospital web site claimed he was board certified on his physician profile page. How could they also lie about his qualifications? I had more respect for doctors and hospitals. After all, don’t doctors take an oath to protect their patients? What happened to that oath Dr. Liar had taken just a few years earlier? Did it not matter what he had done?  Was he more interested in saving his career? To him I was nothing more than a patient – one who helped him pay his bills. In fact, didn’t he simply take away my life in exchange for furthering his?

©My Unplanned Life and www.shakinguplife.wordpress.com. 2011.

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About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
This entry was posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Disability, Employer and disability, Pain, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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