Terri Schiavo Story
A Letter From Terri's Father
In a trial initiated by Michael Schiavo (Terri Schindler-Schiavos
husband and legal guardian), a verdict was issued by Circuit Court Judge, George W. Greer, on February 11, 2000. Judge Greer granted authorization to stop feeding Terri. Judge Greers verdict will cause Terri to die in 10 to 14 days. Terri will die of starvation.
As Terris father, I have been designated as spokesperson for the family and more important, as a voice for Terri appealing to you to join us in our efforts to reverse this travesty of justice. We have to save Terris life. Essentially, Terri has been sentenced to death. We do not understand how, in a civilized society, Terris life was even put on trial. Terri has not committed a felony, or any crime. Terri has not desecrated any commandment of God. Terri has not violated any of societys laws. Terris only culpability is ironic. She has made herself vulnerable because of a $750K medical fund that she acquired via a medical malpractice lawsuit payable to her inheritor when she dies. Terri has no will. The inheritor is her husband.
The precedence that Terris trial and ensuing verdict establishes should frighten everyone. Basically, any person that is impaired, who cannot speak their mind, is vulnerable to be legally executed. In Terris case, where money is the motivation, the risk increases substantially. This ruling could potentially open the door to eventually include everyone who is a burden to his or her caretaker or a drain on the state. The courts verdict endorsees a current movement attempting to legalize euthanasia in the United States. After hearing Judge Greers verdict, our family reacted with a variety of emotions. The thought of our daughters death by starvation is inexpressible. There is also empathy for the parents and families of murder victims. Particularly when the person guilty of committing the crime goes on trial and is acquitted due to dishonest testimony given by witnesses under an oath of God. The frustration must be unbearable.
Terris trial has attracted national media coverage. People have responded from across the country offering their support. There have been communications from people who also have family members impaired by brain damage and have recovered. They relate scenarios where their family member was in the identical situation as Terri. Like Terri, their child/sister would smile, laugh, cry, moan, show signs of recognition and appear as if they were trying to speak. In every case, the Neurologist interpreted these actions as reflex. In every case, the Neurologist prognosis indicated that there was absolutely no chance of recovery. Remarkably and contrary to the negative diagnosis, they report that there was recovery. Most notable was a young man who walks daily, unassisted, on a treadmill, and a woman, who after 20 years, has fully recovered. Also, we have the recently publicized case of Patti WhiteBull who recovered after 16 years, and Terry Wallis, who recovered after 19 years in a condition similar to my daughter.
There is hope for Terri to recover! She displays the exact characteristics as described by all the callers. Her husband does not want anyone to believe that Terri is a living human being who consistently responds when stimulated. He is well aware that he has denied Terri any opportunity to recover for the past eleven years.
Before we can concentrate on assisting Terris recovery, the immediate priority is to stop Terris execution. We have to keep Terri alive. We are dedicated to preserve Terris life. Terri does not deserve to have her precious life cut short. Please help us. We cannot do this alone. Please join our family and make this a community effort to overturn this cruel verdict. We must challenge this miscarriage of justice.
Hopefully someday, Terri will personally thank you.
With heartfelt thanks,
Robert Schindler Sr.
Mary and Bob Schindler flank their daughter Terri on the day in 1984 that she married Michael Schiavo.
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - Diane Meyer can recall only one time her best friend, the future Terri Schiavo, really got angry with her, and she remains haunted by that 1981 episode.
The recent high school graduates had just seen a television movie about Karen Ann Quinlan, who had been in a coma since collapsing six years earlier and was the subject of a bitter court battle over her parents' decision to take her off a respirator.
Meyer made a cruel joke about Quinlan, which set her friend off.
"She went down my throat about this joke, that it was inappropriate," Meyer said. She remembers her friend wondering how the doctors and lawyers could possibly know what Quinlan was feeling or what she would want.
"Where there's life," Meyer recalled her saying, "there's hope."
By contrast, Schiavo's husband, Michael, and members of his family have said Schiavo told them she would not want to be kept alive artificially if she were incapable of getting better.
She has not been fully conscious since collapsing in 1990 at age 26 from what doctors have said was a potassium imbalance that stopped her heart.
Theresa Marie Schindler had been born Dec. 3, 1963, into a well-to-do family in the Philadelphia suburbs. The oldest of three children, she was always shy and retiring.
Her mother, Mary, says the girl would spend hours in her room, arranging her more than 100 stuffed animals into a private zoo. Always heavy, she hated sports, except horseback riding, which fed her love for animals.
The girl never said anything about her weight, but her mother always sensed it bothered her.
"She cried a lot when she went to get clothes," Mary Schindler said.
He daughter didn't go to school dances, not even her senior prom. Instead, she and her friends would go to the movies. Meyer remembers they went to see "An Officer and a Gentleman" four times in one day.
She was a huge fan of the television show "Starsky and Hutch." Sue Pickwell figures she and Terri Schindler wrote hundreds of letters to co-star Paul Michael Glaser, and "I remember the excitement when they finally wrote back, or their people wrote back."
Father recalls a gullible girl
Terri Schindler was naive and somewhat gullible. When she couldn't get her Christmas tree to stand up straight one year, her father, Bob, told her to take it back to the lot and have them put it in the "tree straightener."
"She called me about an hour later and said, "What did you do to me? They all laughed at me.' "
She has always been very tenderhearted, especially when it came to animals.
She came home crying one night, saying she thought she had run over a rabbit or squirrel. Knowing she would be devastated if she saw the animal the next day, her brother Bobby went out and threw it in the bushes, then assured her he had found nothing.
In the girl's junior year, Mary Schindler took her to a doctor to ask about her weight, which had ballooned to more than 200 pounds on a 5-foot-3 frame. The doctor told her Terri would lose the weight when she was ready.
After graduation from Archbishop Wood Catholic School, she was ready. On a structured diet program, she initially got her weight down to 140 to 150 pounds.
College leads to romance
She enrolled in Bucks County Community College with the goal of working with animals, and there she met Michael Schiavo. Mary Schindler says her daughter went head over heels.
"It was the first guy who ever, ever paid any attention to her," she says.
Meyer says her friend talked about how gorgeous Schiavo was and how he was always telling her she was beautiful. He was the "Officer and a Gentleman" to a chubby girl who had lived vicariously through Danielle Steele romances, Meyer says.
After a little more than a year of dating, the two were married in 1984. Terri Schindler wrote to John Denver, her favorite entertainer, to ask him to sing at her wedding, but he never replied.
By a year later, Terri Schiavo had gained a little of her weight back. Meyer says her friend told her that Michael Schiavo had seen her high school graduation picture and warned her "if she ever got fat like that again he'd divorce her."
"I said, "He's probably kidding,' " Meyer said. "But it was upsetting to her."
Scott Schiavo, Michael's brother, says the Schindlers were the ones who rode Terri about her weight. He says her brother sometimes showed one of the woman's old driver's licenses for a laugh.
Friend airs talk of divorce
In 1986, the couple moved to Florida. Michael Schiavo managed restaurants, and his wife got a clerk's job at an insurance agency.
Jackie Rhodes, who worked and socialized with Terri Schiavo, says Michael Schiavo frequently called his wife at work and left her in tears. She says she and Terri Schiavo had discussed divorcing their husbands and moving in together.
But Scott Schiavo, Michael's brother, says he wasn't aware of any trouble in the marriage.
And when the couple went to his grandmother's funeral, Scott Schiavo says, Terri Schiavo told him she would not want to be put on a respirator, as the grandmother had been.
"Terri turned around and looked right in my eyes, and I can still see her sitting there on my left-
hand side," he recalled, repeating testimony he gave in court. " "If I'm gone, just let me go.' "
Bobby Schindler says his sister began talking about leaving Schiavo in 1989. "She said she wished she had the strength or the energy or the know-how to get a divorce," he said.
By this time, her weight had dropped below 120 pounds, and Mary Schindler says she confronted her daughter about it.
The reply: "I eat, Mom. I eat."
Potassium disorders and heart failure have been linked to anorexia, but family members say they do not think Terri Schiavo had a real eating disorder. Doctors never have been able to say with certainty what caused the collapse.
The day before she collapsed, Terri Schiavo had complained to her mother that she was having menstrual problems and that she wasn't satisfied with her doctor. Mary Schindler said they would get together after the weekend and find her a new one.
They never had the opportunity.
Terri Schiavo is 39 now, living in a hospice in Pinellas Park. After working so hard to come out of her shell, she spends most of her days alone in a single room.
She still has her "stuffies," only not as many as before. Just a couple of stuffed dogs and a pair of plush pumpkins her mother hung up for Halloween.
Her family says she laughs when they play John Denver for her and follows them with her eyes. Doctors say those are unconscious responses.
A special person, not a cause
Michael Schiavo, who has since become a registered nurse and has a daughter with his girlfriend, could not be reached to comment. But Scott Schiavo says his brother is merely trying to let Terri Schiavo die with dignity.
"When it sunk into Mike's head, Mike decided to stop being selfish. "I can't bring her back, and I've got to grant her wish,' " he said. "The bottom line is that Mike never wanted this to be a sideshow."
Her family and friends say they love her, too, and think she can get better with therapy. They are just as convinced that she would not want to be let go.
One thing they are sure of. She would not like all this attention and fuss over her. "She's not a cause," Meyer said. "She's a person. A very special person."
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