Voir, Dear

Back in the winter of 2001, I was summoned for jury duty. Now, I’m one of the few people I know who actually enjoys jury duty. Not only do I think it’s our civic duty and privilege to serve on a jury of someone’s peers, it’s interesting to experience first-hand what it means to live in a nation of laws, without actually getting arrested.

Anyway, I was in the generously named “Jury Lounge” at the courthouse when an announcement came that they needed to seat a jury for a long trial, possibly going 25 days or even longer. Folks who wanted to be excused from that particular trial were invited to approach the desk to make their case. Talk about a stampede. I was left sitting in the dust among only a few of us who apparently had thought to ourselves, “sign me up!” envisioning Atticus Finch arguing some high-profile case.

Long story short, I made it through voir dire and onto that jury. The case was not as inspiring as it was sad: a woman with diabetes had died and her family was suing the manufacturer of one of the drugs she’d taken (which soon after was taken off the market). Jurors were given thick notebooks and for the next 28 days we learned all about diabetes. We listened to hours of testimony from experts and viewed gruesome photos of damaged organs. The lawyers had charts of statistics and “boxes and boxes of documents” as one of them kept boasting. I’ll spare you the unhappy details of this case but the bottom line for me was learning how absolutely destructive diabetes can be. (See what I did there, after teasing you with the Atticus Finch thing? But it’s November and that means National Diabetes Month. Stay with me – this is important.)

The American Diabetes Association reports that

  • Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes – nearly 10% of the population.
  • Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • African Americans and Hispanics are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites.
  • Someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. every 19 seconds. ADA estimates suggest that by the year 2050, as many as 1 in 3 Americans could have diabetes.
  • The total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion.

The health impact of diabetes goes way beyond simply needing to take a pill or inject insulin. Did you know that diabetes nearly doubles the risk for heart attack and of death from heart disease? It’s the leading cause of kidney failure and of new cases of blindness among working-age adults. One in 10 health care dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications, and one in 5 health care dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes.

So how do we stem this rising tide of diabetes? The fact is that diabetes can be prevented with proper diet, exercise, and weight control, even for patients whose genetics and family history might indicate otherwise. I’m sorry to have to bring this up the week before Thanksgiving. If it’s any consolation, I am in this boat myself as diabetes runs in my family, so I exercise, eat right (more or less), and work with my doctors to keep an eye on my numbers.

It’s hard enough for me, but for the most vulnerable among us, these outwardly simple steps can be overwhelming. The Mercy Health Clinic cares for many patients struggling with diabetes and other chronic health conditions. Mercy provides lab tests, insulin and medications, and health education free of charge to uninsured and low-income patients, along with massive doses of compassion and support to keep patients on track. This is the Mercy difference in providing health care from the heart.

My 28 days of jury service may not have resulted in a triumph of justice, but they did leave a lasting impression on me about the devastating effects of diabetes. You can learn more about diabetes while avoiding all the courtroom drama by checking out the facts at:


— Pam Saussy, Board Member


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