TM, and Life After

By Barbara Sattler

In 2001, I was a judge enjoying my job, my family, my dogs. I exercised daily, ate well and hadn’t been seriously ill since I was a baby. Over the summer of 2001 I had weird symptoms including a strange intermittent pain in my chest, a searing pain when I bent down and weird bowel and bladder sensations.

One morning in August, I woke up with a fever and nausea. Over the following two weeks, I had numerous tests which were all negative. About ten days later the fever broke, but when I got out of bed, my left leg dragged.

My left leg became more compromised and I began to feel like I had a boa constrictor on my chest and an electric current in both my legs. My right leg became numb in places. I visited a variety of doctors. Diagnoses included a post-viral syndrome but mostly “I don’t know.”

Finally, my primary care doctor ordered a brain scan and MRI and sent me to a neurologist. On September 11, 2001, the day our country saw the World Trade Towers fall, I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis and began receiving intravenous steroids.

As I look back almost twenty years later, I realize how lucky I was. My paralysis receded as did all my symptoms other than pain and girdling. Now, l take a variety of medications which control my symptoms and pain most of the time.

In 2008, I retired and began writing novels from my experiences as a criminal defense attorney and judge. All proceeds from my novels go to the Transverse Myelitis Association (TMA). Check out my fourth book, Behind the Robe: A Novel, described below.

“All Rise the Honorable Lourdes Vasquez presiding.”

Lourdes, the woman behind the robe and newly appointed to the bench, struggles with questions that change lives. Do the police have probable cause for a midnight search warrant? Should a minor be granted an abortion? Should children be sent to a religious school or stay in public school? Should the man standing before her be sent to prison?

Behind the Robe shows you the daily life of a judge. Lourdes, a passionate public defender, applies to be a judge at the urging of her husband, Carlos, the boy she loved in high school—now a veteran with a chip on his shoulder. As a Latina, she believes she has no chance and is shocked when the governor calls.

As a new judge she must deal with the insecurity. “Can I do this job? Am I just a token? How can I deal with my friends? I’m no longer a defender, but a decider.”

She is more than a judge, she’s a wife and a friend. Things at home deteriorate. Carlos turns to drink to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Will her marriage survive? Molly, her best friend, sober for six months, has fallen on hard times. Will she keep her addiction to wine and bad men under control?

Behind the Robe is available at Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, at bookbaby.com in their bookstore and Barnes and Noble online. In Tucson, it is available at Antigone and Mostly Books.

Barbara Sattler is on the Board of The Transverse Myelitis Association. While a city court magistrate in Tucson, Arizona, Barbara contracted transverse myelitis. She took four months to recover before returning to work and was later appointed to the superior court bench. Barbara retired in 2008. Since retirement, she has written three novels and has committed all her publications’ proceeds to the TMA. Barbara’s books are available for purchase on Amazon.com. Barbara also has a blog.

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