As I sat in the Jury Room today at the Superior Courthouse, I chatted with a lot of people and listened to a lot of conversations – all diverse, all intriguing.
There was the young woman who obviously didn’t have many friends, who wanted desperately to connect with someone – we chatted, she followed me around like a puppy and she was a good person which was very obvious.
There were the intellectuals in the rows in front of me, talking about bachelors degrees, courses of studies and graduate work, comparing notes on the Professors styles and qualifications to teach.
There was the young woman, her first time called to Jury Duty obviously nervous and uncertain. She had forgotten she had a boxcutter in her pocket until it was too late and she had to throw it out before the metal detectors. She sat in the back of the room, hoping to hide in a crowd of nearly 180 people.
Each person took a seat, most with one chair between themselves and the next person. The seats are uncomfortable, and that is generously giving them any credit for comfort. We sat and we waited and we talked, and listened, and read.
I brought yarn with me, in hopes of knitting the long promised scarf for my youngest, but the Capitol Police told me they probably wouldn’t permit plastic knitting needles into the Courthouse. I creatively cast-on to my index finger on my left hand, and knitted eight stitches between it and my middle finger for the first hour and a half. This was both mesmerizing and physical therapy for my hand, a never ending saga it seems.
They say you listen better when your hands are occupied, and I think I did. I forced myself not to interject comments in conversations of which I had some expertise, deciding it was time to abide by the adage “Not my circus, not my monkeys” and just passively listen.
People settled in, and began to read books or magazines they brought with them. A room full of people without electronic devices in this era is certainly an awkward one. Whenever I got up to stretch my legs and hip I would instinctively go to where my phone would be to check it, but there was none there. People were asking others if the knew what time it was – there are no clocks in the Jury Room, as the head of the room told us, it makes time pass faster if we are not staring at the clocks.
A lot of people don’t wear watches, I noted this today. I was glad i had mine, but couldn’t recall if it was five or seven minutes fast which was confusing each time someone inquired what time it was.
As I prepared to go to Jury Duty last night, I thought I would bring my headphones, in hopes that would deter people from talking to me. With no electronics permitted there was no real reason, and also a great reason – if I wore my headphones would anyone even realize I wasn’t listening to anyone? It might be a great way to study peoples conditioned behavior in relation to people with headphones.
As the time slowed moved forward and noon approached a group of Bailiff’s came into the room from a side door and walked up front. I announced “They must be calling the first group” to the young woman seated nearby. The intellectuals sat up a little taller and glanced at the door that the Bailiff’s had gone through, to the desk where the staff was seated at the entry to the Jury Room.
Each time the door opened I would glance up hoping it might be time for a group to be summoned to a Court Room, or it could be my Attorney stopping in to visit as he was there for other clients with personal injury cases today. Neither came to pass, but the conversation around me turned to one which held my interest.
The intellectuals began to share their prior Jurist experiences, the cases they heard, the circumstances and their thoughts. It seemed they all thought little of those in personal injury cases, that they were “lazy” and “seeking damages to live the rest of their lives on” – one even said “How bad can it be? It was only a minor rear end collision and the damage to the car was less than $5000.00.”
As my personal injury trial date approaches last this Summer, it was intriguing to me to listen to the conversation. These people had obviously never been injured in an accident that was no fault of their own. These people didn’t live with the daily pain, or the life changing circumstances of what a moment can do to someones life.
I glanced down at my left forearm, looking at my smooth keloid scar from where the surgeon had placed a bridge and bone slurry – with 12 screws to hold it all together – in hopes of replacing the bone that had disintegrated in my arm. It ached, it tingled, it looked awkward, and it was a daily reminder of how my life changed on December 23, 2011. I stretched my left leg to try to shift the pressure off my hip, where the screw stabs my muscle near my hip causing it to bleed and calcify, and causing me near constant pain.
What did they really know of what it takes to “recover’ from an accident, when you can’t recover – never truly – but merely acclimate to the new normal. From their conversation they knew very little. I had been weighing my thoughts on the upcoming Court ordered mediation between our side and the defense in my case. All that has been taken from me, and more importantly all that has been taken from my children, but the irresponsible and callous business owner of the ice rink where I skated.
My youngest would never know the Mom that had jumped and bounced, climbed and danced – she only knew the Mom who had to sit in her La-Z-Boy chair because nothing else was comfortable. The Mom that was sad, depressed, or despondent from being overmedicated to ease the pain of nerve damage. Having the ultimate adverse reaction to Gabapentin. The struggles financially that should never be a part of their lives.
I was fighting so hard to do something amazing when it was all taken away by the carelessness of a greedy and irresponsible business owner. I was so afraid I would lose my clients that I never shared my story at the time, that I kept the seriousness held tightly to my bosom. For four months I couldn’t bear weight on my left arm – and I am left handed. I am an Artist, and the detail I would once use when sketching or drawing is now something that evades me completely.
I can’t do far more things than I can do, but I look healthy, I look able bodied. I am not healthy, I am not able bodied, I am broken – put back together with titanium parts and bone slurry, my life forever a prisoner to pain and the thoughts of what should have been. After 12 days in the hospital I returned home to receive a letter stating “We have decided to move forward with better qualified candidates” for my dream job, the one I had fought so hard to get, that finally existed.
My third interview was to be the day after my accident, but I was missing – I was not available, and I never responded. All my hopes and dreams seemed to vanish in an instant. I was so doped up on pain medication in the hospital I barely remember the first six days there. Shadows of memories of people who visited me, and my best “stoic face” to appear to be fine.
I wasn’t fine. I am still not fine. I don’t know what fine is, I just know I want a break, and not the physical kind that I already have had – I want a break from all the bad things that seem to keep piling on, not because I can’t take them, but because my children don’t deserve to have this childhood.
As the intellectuals spoke, I cringed, was this what I would face if I had a Jury Trial? People who have no sympathy, legal restrictions on what can be found for damages. No amount of money can give me what I want, no amount of money can make it better or right. My Children will forever be affected, and all that we had worked to provide them and teach them, couldn’t make up for the pure hell they went through.
I listened intently to them, and when they were done, I said…
“No offense to you all but I wouldn’t want you on my Jury when my personal injury case comes to trial. Pain isn’t a lifestyle I would wish on anyone, and no amount of money can compensate someone for the damages done.
I broke my arm and hip in December 2011, and my life has been forever changed, and people don’t understand the effect until they are in the shoes of someone who has been injured. I don’t wish it on anyone, and if I could have one wish it would be to give my Children back the innocence and pure joy they lost.
Maybe you don’t think the victims in your court cases deserved compensation for their injuries, but you don’t realize the impact that a moment can have on an entire life, and the lives of those around them. Be grateful, and please don’t be on my Jury.”
On December 23, 2011 I broke my hip and shattered my forearm when I was ice skating. My daughter saw what I hit on the ice, which stopped my skate and led to a rotational fracture of my hip and the destruction of my forearm. I had loved ice skating, and I still do. I started when I was four years old, and I felt freedom, joy and love when I skated. I skated because I loved it. I was aware of the normal risks of skating, I taught my children the first rule of figure skating – how to fall on your backside and tuck your head.
As I fell forward in that brief moment I thought “Oh shit, this won’t end well” having no idea I had broken my hip until I awoke post-operative and the surgeon informed me he had placed a “screw” in my broken hip. On being broken, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone – but yet there is some light.
Over the next few months I will share my story, the story I never have shared, because I didn’t want pity, I didn’t want sympathy, I didn’t want to hear “You poor thing” but sometimes you need to hear that, or you need help and support.
I am broken physically, and at times it feels like spiritually, but I fight every day and never give up hope. Someday it has to get better right? I hope so, and I hope that my story will help whomever reads this to be more empathetic to someone else, to offer compassion and to care. I might not look broken, but I live every moment in pain and I miss the things I had worked so hard to be healthy enough to do, to share with my Children and to give to others.
No amount of money can replace health and wellness. I just want my life back. I always gave to others, and love to connect and help others – why does it feel like no one wants to do the same for me? I know I am not alone.