Starting JB’s trial

When I was in the hospital, working kept me going.  Most of my clients had no clue that I was in the hospital.  I didn’t want them to worry as I still had everything under control.  It kept me from losing focus on life.  It was like, be bummed about my situation or focus on the fact that I still have responsibilities and people who need me.

After 6 weeks in the hospital, I got back to court as soon as I could.  I think I was back in a courtroom 2 weeks after I got home.  I was right back at it, and it kept me alive.  (Not literally, just figuratively.)  There was only one client whose case I got off of because I didn’t think I could do enough for him.

JB was the one client I kept from my former employer.  My mentor.  The greatest defense attorney I have ever known.  He had passed away a year and 2 months prior to my becoming paralyzed.  And out of all the clients who asked to stay with me, I kept 1.  JB.  I had always felt a very maternal instinct to protect JB.  When I first met him, not many people were there for him.  He was practically estranged from any good influence in his life.  So I wanted to stay with him.  To protect him.  To save him.  It was a weird mix of wanting to help him and my one last remaining tie to my mentor.

After I ended up in the wheelchair, I suffered anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to do enough for him.  How could I be an effective voice in trial when I could barely even hold my body upright (I was pretty weak in the beginning).  I am not a confident person by nature.  If I seem it, then it’s a pretty good front.  I second guess everything, which is why I thrive on constant validation.  The difference between his case and my other cases is that I knew the other cases wouldn’t be going to trial right away.  And I was confident that I would get stronger and even start walking again soon.  But JB’s case was almost 2 years old and would be pushed to trial quickly.  I felt like I was abandoning him, but I had to hand him over to the public defender’s office.  I felt it was in his best interest.

Cut to almost a year ago when I get a call from a mom who wants a lawyer for her stepson who she loves as dearly as if he were her own.  “He’s not a bad kid.  He just needs help and I hear you can help him.”  I respond “Sure, what’s his name?  I’ll go see him in custody tomorrow.”  She tells me his first name, which is a very unique name.  “Don’t tell me it’s JB [insert last name here].”  She’s shocked that I know her son.  Apparently she had no idea that I had previously represented him.  They end up retaining me and I make them promise to not tell him so I can surprise him.  The look on his face when I rolled into jail was priceless.

In the 2 years since I had given his case over to the PD’s office, he had not only not gone to trial but picked up several new cases while he was out on bail.  Now I was back on his case and in his life.  I was stronger for what I had gone through and he was more willing to really open up to me because of his path.  We were a much stronger, better team now.  He actually told me recently that no matter what happens on his case, he has never felt more comfortable with anyone because he knows I truly care.  And I do.

So, tomorrow I start trial on the first of his many cases.  I am scared to lose his trial.  Not because I think he’s innocent like with some of my other cases with defendants that I’m close to.  But, I’m scared because it’s my one last tie to my mentor and if I lose, I feel like I’m letting him down.  And I feel like the universe brought me back to JB for a reason.  Maybe my mentor had something to do with that, I don’t know.  What I am confident about is that my wheelchair does not prohibit his defense.  It won’t stop me from being the best advocate for him that I can be.  It won’t stop me from arguing until I can’t argue any further.  I wasn’t confident 3 years ago.  And maybe I’m not the most confident now.  But I am dang sure that I am a fighter.  And that’s what he will get tomorrow.

But, winning would be nice validation.

To all my friends

I’ve been seeing a lot of talk lately about friends as relates to people getting SCIs (that’s “spinal cord injury” for all you not in the know).  In some of the SCI groups that I’m a part of, this has been a big topic lately.  Many people find that their friends deserted them when they became injured.  I know that happens.  And that sucks.  But, if someone is quick to ditch you in times of trouble, were they really friends to begin with or were they merely fun acquaintances with whom you hung out?

When I was in college I used to brag about all the friends I had because I partied with literally every single person on campus.  Ok, maybe not literally, but close.  One day my sister pointed out that while I knew a ton of people, how many were actual friends?  It wasn’t the same.  Quantity is not quality.  I took that to heart and really started focusing on real friendships.  In the course of my life, I’ve still made it a point to be cool with everyone and know a lot of people.  But, the ones I call friends is a much smaller group these days.  In college everyone was “such a good friend!” But, now you have to pass a very strict test to make the list.  There’s even a secret handshake.  (There’s no secret handshake, but now I am seriously considering creating one.)

The point of all this (have you noticed a trend that in my blog I often have to bring things back around to my point because I get sidetracked way too easy?) is that I didn’t have a big falling off of friends when I became paralyzed.  I consider myself lucky.  My family is amazing.  Obviously.  When I was in the hospital, my parents visited me pretty much every day.  My mom actually stayed overnight with me for at least the first two weeks.  Probably even longer.  The hubs came to see me everyday when he was on summer break and then weekends when he was back to work.  My sister came several times a week.  My brother came a ton of times.  It’s funny, because to me that’s what family does because that’s what my family has always done.  When I’m hurt, they always circle the wagons and make sure that I am OK and taken care of, physically and mentally.  I’ve learned though that I am super lucky because many families aren’t like that.

Beyond my family, my friends, my really good, close friends, rallied.  One of my best couple friends Dr. Barbie and her husband Mr. Dr. Barbie  came to see me at least twice a week.  This is saying a lot because they would work all day (she’s a dentist and he’s a lawyer- power couple, I know!) and then battle the dreaded evening traffic from Orange County to Los Angeles to come hang out with me for a couple hours.  The first few visits I barely remember (hey-o drugs!) but they kept coming back.  I’m pretty sure they were recording my drug induced state for future blackmail.  One of my favorite nights was when they came to the hospital on a Saturday night all dressed up because they were meeting friends in Hollywood.  I had just gained hospital privileges and my nurses trusted me to roam the grounds.  The hubs, Dr. Barbie, Mr. Dr. Barbie and I went down to the cafeteria for gross cafeteria food (sidenote: CS actually had delicious food).  It’s just funny to picture a super hot dolled up Dr. Barbie and her handsome dolled up Mr. Dr. Barbie husband ready for a night of dancing in Hollywood hanging out with their not dolled up hospitalized friend eating stale pizza (or whatever we ate).  But, that’s the kind of friends they are!  They didn’t care and still made a point of trying to make me feel included and loved.

The It Couple (my best friend from law school and her husband who was also a good friend in law school) came all the way to LA from the OC as well.  We had kind of gone through this weird phase where we had gone from spending every day in school together to me moving two hours away and learning how to adjust our friendship to that.  But then when I landed in the hospital for 6 weeks, she didn’t hesitate to be the amazing best friend that I had had and came to see me.

My bestest estest friend (my best friend from high school who is more sister than friend at this point) came all the way from England to see me.  Ok, that’s not entirely true.  She lives in England now and was home for a visit and came to see me a couple times with her mom and her babies.  Let me tell you: if you’re ever in the hospital and need cheering up, hang out with toddlers with British accents.  There is quite possibly nothing cuter in the universe!

One of my closest friends from high school came.  She and I don’t spend a lot of time together since we are both super busy and don’t live close by.  But she was absolutely amazing and came a couple times to see me.  She even brought me pizza!  Our high school was amazing and truly created this bond of sisterhood that when you really need something, these girls will come through.  But she came a couple times and hung out for several hours, helping to keep my spirits up.  That is a good friend and a genuinely good person!

The person who came through who was probably the biggest surprise and also not the biggest surprise (yes, wrap your mind around that) was Lennon.  Obviously not his real name, but this cool cat is a HUGE Beatles fan.  Lennon and I go way back.  Like, way, way back.  All the way back to my being a dumb twenty year old and him being the hip (slightly older) guy who everybody loved to be around.  He was the guy who just made you feel cool by being friends with him.  He was the guy who made me feel cool because somehow I made it into his counsel of friends.  He was the guy who patiently listened to my mom lecture him for like 45 minutes on how to take me out in public after my previous surgery, while I sat there beet red dying in mortification.  But he got it and he didn’t make a big deal and listen to all of her rules on how to treat me like a nearly shattered, barely held together porcelain doll.  During this hospital stay, he came to see me weekly.  He came to see me when I was upstairs (not sure if I was still in ICU or if I was in a normal hospital room) but was super drugged out and in so much pain.  He sat there through that.  He came to see me when I was in the rehab portion and wasn’t allowed outside of my hall.  We sat in the recreation room and talked.  He brought his daughter to see me when I was allowed outside of the hospital (escorted by hospital staff, of course) and we walked (I rolled) the two blocks to the Target on a “field trip” of sorts.  He came all the time and made me feel so special.  I don’t even know if he knew that until now.

All of my other close friends constantly kept up with calls, emails, texts, flowers, everything under the sun to make me feel special.  And I truly, 100% did feel special.  The point of all this is twofold: 1) I want to give a shout out to all of my amazing friends, because I wouldn’t have gotten through this ordeal without you.  And I feel bad that it’s taken me nearly 3 years to get this on paper.  Well, you know, virtual paper.  And 2) I want other people in my situation to know that real friends are there for you when you need them.  They don’t abandon you in times of trouble.  They schlep all the way to the hospital to visit you.  They don’t make a big deal about having to adapt to your new lifestyle, even if it’s hard or awkward.  If someone ditches you because of something nasty that you’re going through, then count yourself lucky because why would you want that kind of negative energy in your life anyway?