Judge, Jury and the Jerk

Getting ready for court each day was extremely difficult. We were mentally and physically exhausted from the previous day. The jury was selected and opening arguments had been presented. As the prosecution, we were given the opportunity to tell our story first; we had to prove our case with testimony from experts and character witnesses. How do you explain to a jury, the person you were and how that person was taken away and replaced with someone who you don’t recognize?

We began the trial each day at 9 a.m. Court business was handled without the jury. Once that was completed, the jury was escorted into the room. It was odd-looking at the jury as they gazed at each of us. Where they sizing us up? Looking at our clothing for the day? Or just bored? My parents were in the courtroom and it was nice to have their support. Dr. Liar came to court alone; and left alone each evening. He also wore the same blue suit each day. What I didn’t understand is why he didn’t purchase another suit?  As a neurosurgeon for a large hospital, he received a large salary. We were given the opportunity to review his employment contract, which listed his salary as well as his yearly bonus and how much of his student loans the hospital had paid. He could have definitely afforded a new suit. I had purchased new clothing since I could only wear flat shoes and pant suits. Since the injury occurred, I could no longer wear most of my wardrobe; however, we made sure that we were dressed appropriately. That is just one of many items that proved how disinterested Dr. Liar was in the lawsuit. Except for the first day, he sat with his back to us, but still reviewed material during the witnesses. He also opened his mail. Our attorneys told us to pay attention to each detail and to be alert at all times.

The first witness for us was a very well-known Radiologist who showed two of my MRIs — pre- and post-surgery. He answered questions from our attorney and went into great detail about the injury and revealed where my spinal cord was damaged on the MRI. For an educated man with an extensive medical background, he did a terrific job explaining the injury in layman’s terms. I knew the entire story and still found him extremely interesting and insightful.

Following the questions from our attorney, the defense took their turn. He asked the questions we were expecting. Our witness was prepared and handled himself professionally explaining again what the MRI showed.  Even when the defense asked him the same question four or five different ways; he spoke the truth and further explained that my MRI was a certain way prior to surgery and then it was damaged during surgery, which showed on the second MRI.  Again, Dr. Liar never looked at our witness or the MRI’s.

Once the defense was done cross-examining the Radiologist, the judge suggested that we break for lunch. That gave us an hour to discuss logistics and prepare for the next witness, or time to just catch our breath and grab a bite to eat. It was a long walk to the restaurant area, especially when you walk slowly and with a cane. Each time we took a break, all I wanted was fresh air…I felt surrounded by negativity and evil.

My neurologist who I had seen for the past 15 years was shown to the jury on videotape. He was unable to be in court so he took the time to be questioned by both attorneys months before we appeared in court. Like the previous witness, he went into great specificity about my past, present and future. Since he had known me for many years, he knew what my life was like prior to surgery, which made him a good witness to explain what the injury had done to me. He indicated I had a minor tremor prior to the surgery and since the trauma to my spinal cord the tremor had spread and was greatly affecting my quality of life. He discussed my balancing problems, incontinence, arm pain, numbness and the long list of additional problems I was experiencing since the surgery. For some strange reason, listening to this laundry list of problems made me emotional. This was a man I respected for numerous years who always comforted me during an appointment; however, during the video he wasn’t able to do so. Hearing all my problems listed one after the other was overwhelming. I had always surrounded myself with competent doctors and developed a close relationship with each of them. As bad as the medical diagnosis was, my doctors always reassured me that we would get through it together. I never felt that my doctors were disinterested or uncaring (except for Dr. Liar). However, hearing the problems without a solution was tough. And, once again, Dr. Liar never looked at the screen.

The Life Care Planner was the next witness. She discussed in great detail how difficult it was for me to get around in our house. She made some recommendations regarding the house and a trainer to come into the house to assist with an exercise program to gain strength and to help keep my muscles flexible. We already had the proper exercise equipment, but it was in the basement and I was not supposed to use steps when no one was home. While there, she did notice I had a cane handy at each doorway leading in and out of the house. I used the medical pendant inside out home, but relied on a cane as I walked out of the house (even to go to the mailbox). She also recommended some household assistance to help with cleaning and other household chores, which my husband was currently doing in his free time.

During the cross-examination, the defense grilled her about her recommendations asking her to go into extensive detail. Like the two witnesses before, she continued to testify about what was best for me and the items that would assist in my daily activities. Since no one can predict the future, the Life Care Planner, prepared a special provisional document should I ever need a wheelchair. This document listed additional items I may need if I ever lost the use of my legs. While we all hoped this would never occur; we wanted to be prepared. The document listed other items I may need to make our house handicapped accessible. Again, we weren’t asking for any items out of the ordinary; simply items that would help with my limitations. When the defense questioned the Life Care Planner, it was easy to guess the direction they would be going when they had their opportunity to testify. They were using any excuse or appointment with a doctor or therapist to discredit me. While I thought I would feel attacked when this occurred, I surprisingly didn’t. Was I prepared? Had I toughened up? No, I had truth on our side and felt at peace with our testimony and for the very reasons we were pursuing a lawsuit — we were doing the right thing so others wouldn’t go through this ordeal.

Court continued to be more difficult each day. Most nights I would go home, eat dinner, lay out clothes for the next day and go to bed. I was in pain and lived on large doses of medicines to get me through the day and night. I would find myself thinking “How did things get like this?”  Even today I am not sure what I was expecting. Was I waiting for Dr. Liar to stand up and admit he was guilty?  “Yes, I made a mistake!” That was all I wanted — for him to admit he made a mistake and was sorry for not telling the truth.

It wasn’t my desire to see Dr. Liar lose his job or medical license. I also didn’t want to become rich from his mistake. We didn’t expect millions of dollars — I wanted my yearly salary or close to it. After all, he wouldn’t be the one to subsidize my missing compensation as portrayed by the defense — that’s why doctors have insurance — for the mistakes they may make. However, the judicial system doesn’t allow this to be discussed in court. Like anyone else, I wanted to continue the lifestyle I had prior to surgery, which wasn’t extravagant.  When I was injured the bills didn’t stop, but the income wasn’t the same.

We lived modestly; however, there were two things I wanted when the lawsuit was completed and if Dr. Liar was found guilty. I wanted two things to thank the two people who had lived this nightmare with me on a daily basis.

My daughter was accepted via early decision to American University (AU) and had her heart set on attending. We were prepared to pay part of it; however, at $60,000 a year it was more than was planned and budgeted. I wanted to send her to AU and graduate without student loans.

The second was to send my husband to the Phillies Training Camp.  He had no idea I wanted to do this, but since he played baseball in high school and we both loved the Phillies, I thought it may bring some joy into his life. It even meant time in Florida…one week escape from me and my many problems!

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



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, Depression, Disability, Employer and disability, Medical Malpractice, Pain, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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