The Terri Schiavo
case hits too close too home for me and too many of us feel
the media just played along with the politicians and parents
and never asked the tough questions.
The circus surrounding
the comatose Terri Schiavo has been a Barnum & Bailey-type
classic. In Ring One we have the family battle, Terris
husband against here parents. In Ring Two we have those willingly
and reluctantly involved deciding Terris fate. And in
Ring Three are the rest of us. We have the general public
and the media, not sure whether were just spectators
or have actually been dragged into the circus act and are
trying to figure out our role, what we think or how we feel.
And it is because
of this that I have a particularly difficult time dealing
with the sad story of this once-attractive young women with
a bright future whose days of life can now probably be counted
on the fingers of my two hands.
It is one of
the most complex stories to ever come across my desk for many,
many reasons, including the fact that I can personally call
on a comatose experience in my life and wonder out loud what
my children and my enemies would have missed if someone had
pulled the plug on me.
On the one hand,
I am very upset at how political this case has become, yet
I can understand that there are times when we expect those
in government to stand up for life. But I am bothered at how
it has been done. And I guess my concerns and those of many
of you are validated by the fact that almost a dozen or so
judges and courts have denied the demands of Terri Schiavos
parents that her feeding tube be reinstalled.
I am also troubled,
not only by my own survival experience in a coma, but also
from the knowledge that there have been other cases where
people miraculously and unexpectedly came out of comas after
five, ten and twenty years.
The most notable
case that comes to mind is Ryan Corbin, the grandson of crooner
Pat Boone. The young man fell 40 feet through a skylight to
a concrete floor below, denting two railings on the way down.
This resulted in the need for multiple surgeries, including
the removal of his spleen, and it left him in a deep coma,
on maximum ventilator support, and unresponsive to outside
stimulation for more than six months. His death was a forgone
conclusion. Doctors said he would never survive. But the family
never gave up. They stood by his side, united, and talked
to him, sang to him, prayed for him, and never wavered from
the belief that some day he would emerge from the coma.
One day, Ryan
stunned his family and the medical community when he came
to life and began talking.
He has been
steadily recovering to what many believe will be complete
normalcy. As a result, I can understand why the Boone family
would be supportive of Terri Schiavos parents in working
to keep her alive.
Yet, I am deeply
troubled that one of the main issues here has become WHO has
the ultimate say in Terris life and death. Should her
parents really have the final word instead of Terris
husband? Yes, I know he has another love in his life and apparently
to some, the fact he stood by Terri side for years and
went through his own living hell, doesnt seem to matter
Still, I cannot
accept the notion that her parents somehow are acting with
totally clean hands and have no emotional conflicts of interests
of their own in this debacle.
me to get personal about this issue for a moment and explain
why I am so troubled by the actions of ALL members of the
family, the politicians jumping in, the judges walking away
from the issue, and the media acting like it didnt really
no what to cover and what questions to ask.
In late March,
28 years ago, I was involved in a freak accident in San Francisco
during a Jaycee convention in which several other people were
also hurt. After we were released from the hospital and I
made my way south 450 miles to my home, I developed symptoms
which my doctor misread as elements of a sore throat or the
me to stay in bed and drink a lot of liquids. It wasnt
hard to follow his advice, in part, because I developed this
incredible, almost insatiable thirst. I drank water, soda,
juice, beer, ANYTHING that I could find in the house. To cut
to the chase, let me tell you that I awoke the morning of
March 31st, 1977 and found myself in my own personal Twilight
I could hear
my six-month-old son cooing and my wife (at the time) beginning
her morning. And although I could swear I was wide awake,
I couldnt see anything. And I couldnt seem to
find a way to get out of bed.
Within an hour,
I had been rushed to the emergency room and I could hear the
buzz of doctors and nurses and administrators around my bed
and I was clearly the center of their discussion. As a relatively
well-known print journalist at the time, people were shocked
to hear that I was apparently blind and paralyzed.
I, too, was
quite shocked at hearing the news second-hand. Somehow, they
figured I was so out of it that it wasnt really necessary
to give ME the news about MY OWN STATE OF HEALTH. I could
hear them just amazed that I had a blood sugar level of 926
(normal is 80 to 120) and I could hear comments that I should
have been dead eight hours earlier.
and my wife (at the time) argued amongst themselves about
what to do with me as if I was not a part of the discussions
or decision-making. Just as I spoke up and demanded to know
what my future held, a heavily-accented Serbo-Croatian doctor
interjected himself into the conversation and suggested some
experimental tests with mice and insulin at Harbor-UCLA Medical
Center that MIGHT be worth considering.
Dr. Zeljko Zic
(say that three times in a row) said my chances of survival
were 50/50. I told all within my voice that I wanted to live
and to try the experiment. I also recall saying to my wife
(at the time) and anyone who would listen, that if I
end up a vegetable, pull the plug. I guess thats
what you say, instinctively, when you find yourself on deaths
I was then rushed
to the Intensive Care Unit, had what I am told was near-death
experience on the way there, and immediately went into a diabetic
coma. The coma lasted a couple of weeks, and the entire experience
was life-changing. Needless to say, the mice and insulin experiment
worked on this old rat and Im still around to tell this
Today, I cannot
see myself telling anyone to pull the plug. When I die, I
expect to go kicking and screaming. And the ONLY person I
would trust with making the ultimate decision on my ultimate
demise is my wife. Not my Dad, not my sisters, nor my brothers.
My wife not only knows me better than anyone else, but she
is the only one who took a holy vow to be with me and care
for me till death do us part.
I take those
words and that vow VERY seriously and no one else in my family
has the depth of love or interest or commitment in me like
my wife does. And for me, that is the most powerful argument
in allowing Terri Schiavos husband to be the court of
last resort. And as we have seen, multiple judges and courts
of appeal, and the Supreme Court, have agreed.
still miffed at the media because they didnt do a good
job of framing the issue as one that was spread out over the
last 15 years of Terris life. Yeah, I know it was mentioned
she had been in a coma for a decade-and-a-half, but there
wasnt any depth to reporting that fact.
I was shocked
to find out during my own investigation that Michael Schiavo
lived with Terris parents for the first eight of those
15 years. They generally agreed on all the treatment protocols
and although there were some disagreements along the way,
the efforts to treat Terri properly moved along with near-unanimous
agreement among todays combatants.
The media accounts
of the so-called experts who made revealing decisions
on Terri recently without even seeing her are at best, irresponsible.
The politicians who were allowed to pontificate about her
condition after not giving a damn for 15 years should be tarred
In the end,
Terri Schiavo is not the only person who has been abused,
disrespected, and taken for granted. So has the rest of the
American public because we never had a say in the matter.
We could only watch and wonder why all of a sudden, her pain
and suffering was being argued by some of the most insensitive
and egocentric people on the face of the earth those
truly heartless scallywags in Washington who try to run roughshod
over our lives, our finances, and our rights almost every
day they are in session.
Our peers in
the Fourth Estate could have, and should have, done a better
Let us hope
Terri Schiavo and others like her rest in peace. And lets
hope Ryan Corbins days get brighter and brighter as
he stands as a living testament to the power of life and the
power of prayer. And may we demand as much attention as Terri
has received, if heaven forbid, we ever find ourselves in
her tragic predicament.