Friday, June 1, 2012

# 123 - Serving and Struggling

In the midst of trying to keep up with my health, as much as possible, I took on a task that I thought might be approachable. First of all, before I had heard back from the Social Security Administration on my disability hearing decision, I had been summoned to appear before court as a potential Grand Jury member.

Never did I imagine that I would be selected. I could not check the "disability" box at that date because a formal decision had not been made and this was a court summons I am dealing with. I figured I would show up, go through the selection process, then go home.

Since I am struggling with my health on a day to day basis, I wake up and never can tell if the day will find me feeling strong or in a bad place. All I can do with the level of deterioration I have experienced is to go at the pace my body sets for me and try to do the right things to give myself as many good days, per week, as I can grab.

Oh, I am good at putting on a smile and appearing as healthy as possible to outsiders. But, I cannot hold up to prolonged activities. Those who are around me regularly know more about my limitations and are prepared for a sudden crash. Others...I make my exit before it happens. Well, at least I do my best to make an exit so I am not embarrassed terribly by my body not cooperating.

As luck would have it, the judge selected me to serve on the Grand Jury panel. I sat there and tried to breath normally. Two days per week. That doesn't seem like much, but the issue with MY body is that I can never rely upon my body to operate correctly. I might have two good days per week, but those days might not fall upon the days that I'm needed for service. I felt a bit panicked.

I sit there among the others being selected and I keep telling myself that I will simply cater my life around serving on the Grand Jury so that I can make it through those two days per week, as best as I can. The big problem is that service is for three months. But, a good part of this difficult situation was that my husband works in the same building I would be serving as a Grand Juror...this means I could ride to court with him and go home with him as the driver. Being on the road is very challenging for me because of my reconstructed cervical spine. I don't like having this difficulty, but it's part of my life and part of the considerations I must make when needing to travel.

After the selection process and after hearing my name called for service, I kept telling myself that I could do it. Positive talk began to flow through my head. I could do this! Yes, I am indeed disabled, but I am ALLOWED to earn poverty level income and to do minimal work --- once a formal decision had been made --- so I knew I would still be okay with serving, even with a disability label attached to me. Many disabled persons find the energy and time to volunteer or to serve the community in whatever capacity their body allows. The problem is...the capacity is not reliable enough to earn a paying position that would require consistency and good health to keep up.

However, as I sat in the jury box with my name on the list as those who would serve for this Grand Jury term, I held my breath as I heard the judge select me as Grand Jury Foreman.


How could I lead a Grand Jury for three months when I could not even guarantee that I could lift my head off the pillow each morning? Everyone sitting in the jury box with me began to look my direction. I gave a smile of appreciation and remembered that my position allowed for absences.

To date, I've served two months on the Grand Jury. After my service had begun, I finally got my letter of disability in the mail and my attorney said there was no problem with me serving on a Grand Jury, that many disabled persons serve because they are one of the few, along with the retired, who have the time to dedicate two days per week for this kind of service. Although, my attorney also expressed concern at my physical ability to keep up with this service.

I knew, all along, that this service would take a hard toll on my body. I knew it would eat into my "good days" left for myself and for my family during the rest of the week. I knew this position would expose me to mass populations in the city and to germs that I have great difficulty battling with my suppressed immune system. But, once I was selected to be Foreman, I felt tremendously compelled to fulfill the duty while knowing that I would never again be able to do so. In the future, I would have my disability ruling to provide so that I can avoid putting myself in this situation.

Yes, it's been very challenging for me on a physical level. There are many nights I am not able to sleep but three hours before having to go in for a hard day of service. We hear approximately 80 cases per day, which include many sexual assaults of a child, brutal murders, investigations and everything else you can imagine. Since I live in the Greater Houston area, we see it all. Some of it makes my stomach turn. Having Addison's does not add to my situation of being in extremely stressful situations two days per week. Anyone who knows of serving on a Grand Jury knows it goes above and beyond serving on a regular's for an extended commitment and includes heavy case-load and a broad scope of felonies. We do not hear misdemeanor stuff, we hear the disturbing part of criminal nature.

I have no problem admitting that I am a strong, yet diplomatic leader. If I am going to be Foreman, I am there and we have order in our proceedings. However, it's not a popularity contest. I must be firm, guiding, ensuring that respect remains among all jury members and keep us on track.

However, I have had to miss twice. On average, many jurors seem to miss about two times. Others never miss one date of service. If I am feeling very weak and there doesn't seem to be enough Hydrocortisone to get me up and going on a functional level, then I don't try to put myself in an early grave. I call in and miss my whopping $28.00 for the day. The month of May also gave us a holiday which fell on one day of service, so that gave me an additional break.

During the last few weeks, I've had doctor appointment after doctor appointment. As usual, I am battling constant viruses and bacterial infections. I have even had a double biopsy of the uterus. Other doctors have ran invasive, painful tests to reveal one of my cultures being positive for Klebsiella Pneumoniae, which is a type of bacteria you do not want to battle.

The toll that serving has caused is fully apparent to me when I look at my house. The two days that I'm gone for Grand Jury, trying my best to keep up and paying a price that impacts me for, at least, the following day of being down and out, I can see that my house is neglected. That two days per week of extra rest allows me to somewhat keep up with the house on a level that keeps it clean and tidy. Serving on the Grand Jury has created a dip into my reserves that are taking a huge toll on my homelife and my daily health. I just don't have it in me to do this week after week, without a break to "recover" and to allow my body to rest while battling other issues. It's been a hard pill for me to swallow, a confirmation that I am more weak than I had even imagined. This past year, my increased resting state had allowed me to more fully enjoy moments with my family or moments on our acreage. But, this service that has now been going on for two months has shown me that I have little left to give. I must reserve my energy and prepare my body to be able to efficiently endure next week's two days of great stress and strain.

I have June left. Then, it's over. My husband has been very concerned and thinks I should bow out gracefully. However, I feel as if I've come this far and can keep trying until the very end. It's difficult on me, but here I am, in this situation and I want the Grand Jury to finish their commitment. Since other members of the jury have high absenteeism, I cannot add mine to the mix. They have twelve people and need nine for a vote, they prefer to have ten present for a vote to neutralize a rogue radical that might be on board. So, there's a lot of pressure to make it to service every Monday and Thursday.

Since I now have a very dangerous bacteria to battle, it's become more precarious for me to continue doing more than I am really capable of doing. I'm in a bad position. My body hurts, is weakened from the immune system being attacked by this bacteria and the medications have their own side-effects. I want to give my body every possible angle to do a good battle, so I am having to be in a resting state during my days at home, much more often. It is frustrating to me. I feel completely drained.

And it doesn't help the Addison's situation to go to the courthouse to see pictures and to have a jail house inmate testifying in front of you about his baby's head being smashed in like a pumpkin that hit the concrete, over and over. After all, he only wanted to play his video games in peace!

Hearing of families being sexually assaulted, together, by a crazed intruder can wreak havoc upon your emotions. I keep it cool while serving as Foreman, but I have my days when I come home and cry and wonder about the direction of humanity. Being on a Grand Jury is very trying. One of the men just told me that he leaves every session with an extremely heavy heart. He is in his 60's and has told me that no other life event has impacted him as hard as serving on this Grand Jury. Yes, it includes horrific moments.

Then, there are the moments when we all laugh about certain cases, such as the robbery team that broke into a sex shop, took off their masks to be caught on video and then one of the robbers actually tried to return stolen goods the next day because it was disappointing. Yes, those moments give you pause to laugh so hard that your side hurts.

Anyway, I continue forward. Not knowing whether or not I'll be able to keep up until the end and if I can't, I will be humiliated by my body's inability to do what I want and need it to do. I feel compelled to serve my city in the capacity for which I was selected. I have citizens who have been accused and citizens who have been terribly victimized that are counting on our Grand Jury to help them have their day in court so that justice can be administered. I don't want to hinder the process.

For those of you who pray out there...I could use your prayers. I want to beat this bacteria that has a 50-50%  survival rate because of it being so difficult to beat. So far, for over ten years, I have continued to beat the odds, and I want to keep doing so.

For now, I'll probably have a high level of frustration with my non-cooperating body. I cannot keep showing our house to potential buyers during this increased weakness of my abilities. Things feel strained and difficult, yet I continue to move forward as best I can and having the love of my husband is the best salve I can have during these problems. He is loving and supportive; knowing I am stubborn, he respects my decisions, but knows I am struggling every day and feeling very sick.

I don't like feeling sick so many days per week. I think some of my Grand Jury members see it in me. I'm a business woman, so I can handle the proceedings, even under difficult conditions, but there are a couple who look as if they've had a few battles of their own so they are wearing eyes of understanding that seem to drill into the core of me.

Rushing time by is not a way to live, wanting time to quickly pass is not a way to live, but I can't deny that I will be celebrating the end of June. My service will be at an official end and I will be free to obey my body in a more respectful, healthy way so it can be stronger for its continued, ongoing battles. Meanwhile, I am finding my needed strength in prayer and extra down-time. I pray that my service makes a difference to someone out there...


  1. I can't imagine what you are going through ion the jury. I think it is amazing (although maybe nit such a good idea) that you stuck with it.
    I too have been fighting for disability for 2 years. I have one chance left-- a tribunal of which I am waiting to hear the date.

  2. Lana. I am in awe of what you have accomplished being on the jury. I can't even imagine having the courage to make that commitment considering this disease and the emotional and physical drain. You really are an inspiration! I will be praying for you in regards to the bacteria and the remainder of your service. God bless you!!


  3. Holly...Thank you for your encouragement. I am glad to serve, but can see that even though there is a difference between "working" and "serving," my body is still unable to maintain such a service. It's a good thing Grand Jurors are so desperately needed in this metropolitan city or I'd be out on my tush for having to miss a couple of days already. I'm just hoping to finish the last of June with a bang. Then, I plan on not putting myself through anything like this has absolutely taken a negative toll on my body that I'd actually forgotten because I've been so careful this past year with not overdoing it. I think being on the Grand Jury weakened my system further and that is the reason I was susceptible to the bacterial infection. Oh well. It's done. I will do my darndest to finish my service to the best of my ability!

    Alicia --- Thank you for being sweet --- I don't know if I was courageous or crazy for taking on this Grand Jury service, but someone has to be filling these chairs in the Grand Jury room. It's truly been an honor, but it's also been very difficult on me, mostly due to the Addison's disease. Over the years, with this disease, I've learned which circumstances are beneficial to me and which are likely to have a negative impact...Grand Jury service is not great for my condition, but I'm trying to go forward and to be as faithful to my duty as is possible in this body of mine! Thank you for your prayers. I've REALLY enjoyed your blog. I hope you've been able to read Mo's blog as well. She's on my blog roll list of favorite neighbors as well. The Addison's Village is very interesting as well and has topics that you can look up from ages ago, but still read all the commentary. It really helps me through my dark times. Getting support and validation from others who are struggling with similar symptoms, etc., and from those who know about this rare disease is, in itself, very healing.

    God bless you too doll!!!! I'm so glad you are writing!


  4. Lana, A few months before I was summoned for jury duty, but wasn't worried because I worked in a law enforcment the old days that automatically disqualified you. Not anymore. They wanted me on the jury BECAUSE I worked with police officers, the victim was a cop who been shot by a Chicago Gang Member. (I guess they figured I would be on the cop's side) When filling out some forms I informed the judge that I had crohn's and I was dismissed. He was pissed...oh well. Now when I get a summons I just check the box and list crohn's and addison's.
    I could never do what you are doing...I envy your desire to serve your community, and to push past your problems. If you feel sick or woozy tell the guy in don't want to be leaving the courthouse in an ambulance!
    Good luck my friend!


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