Skip to comments.Michael Schiavo: A refusal to quit in the face of threats, anguish and vitriol.
Posted on 03/20/2005 6:06:29 PM PST by Former Military Chick
He's been vilified on Web sites and talk shows. He's been called a wife-abuser, an adulterer, a money-grubbing murderer.
Death threats have been left in his mailbox.
Throngs of protesters have waved signs and chanted outside his house in Clearwater, Fla., and they have gathered again.
Sometimes, even Michael Schiavo's friends have wondered why, in the face of all that, he didn't just walk away.
It would have been easier for him to relinquish guardianship of his severely incapacitated wife, Terri, to her parents.
So why not give it up, leave Terri's feeding tube in, let her parents care for her? After all, he is living with another woman now and they have two children.
"Because he's sticking by what he promised," Scott Schiavo, Michael's brother, said in a recent interview. "He wants to honor the last thing he can give to her."
Physicians have testified that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state and will never improve. Michael Schiavo has said his wife told him she would not want to live like this.
Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, formerly of Huntingdon Valley, say she is responsive and can be helped. They say that, as a Catholic, she would choose life at all costs.
On Friday, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, which has been in place for all but two brief stretches of time since she collapsed in 1990, was removed. It could be brief this time as well. The House is expected today to consider a Senate bill that would allow Schiavo's parents to take their case to federal court.
Throughout the protracted legal battle, the Schindlers have made their religious views, their personal anguish, and their mistrust of Michael Schiavo a public cause.
Intensely private, according to his family and friends, Michael Schiavo has rarely spoken publicly about the matter, out of respect for his wife's privacy. Through his brother, he declined to be interviewed for this story.
However, in recent days he has gone on national TV to reiterate that Terri would not have wanted to live like this and criticize politicians for getting involved in a deeply personal matter.
His brother and friends also have decided that it's time to speak up. The mudslinging, they said, has become too ugly, too nasty.
"I have a friend who I think has been maligned," said Russ Hyden of Gainesville, Fla.
"We're tired of it. We're done. It's time people know who he is," said Scott Schiavo, who lives in Levittown near where the brothers were raised.
The thing is, even if Michael Schiavo wins the final court battle, and Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is removed, he really hasn't won at all, Scott said.
"He's already lost," he said. "He's already lost Terri."
Social with friends, but reclusive
His brother and friends describe Michael Schiavo as social within his circle of friends, but otherwise almost reclusive. Except for the No Trespassing sign on his front lawn and the armed guards he's occasionally hired to protect his home, he's tried to grasp whatever shreds of normalcy he can.
His friends don't see the demon that protesters who have hurled insults at him do.
Wilma Mackay, a 65-year-old retiree from Palm Harbor, Fla., who watched her husband and brother die of cancer, sees a man who is "the epitome of loyalty."
Bonnie Rowley of Largo, Fla., a friend for about a decade, sees someone who "stands strong on what he believes in, and that is Terri Schiavo. If I needed a health-care advocate, he'd be my first choice. I know he'd be there till the end, and he'd give it one hell of a fight."
Michael Schiavo, 41, was the youngest of five boys. Six-foot-seven, athletic and model-handsome, he met Terri Schindler at Bucks County Community College in 1982.
She had graduated from Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, he from Woodrow Wilson High School in Bristol Township.
Married two years later, they moved to Florida, where, early on the morning of Feb. 25, 1990, Michael Schiavo has testified, he awoke to the sound of a thud and found Terri on the floor in the hallway, unconscious.
They had been married a little over five years.
He has spent three times as long - the last 15 years - first trying to bring her back, then trying to let her go, his friends and brother say.
In the beginning, they say, Schiavo was relentless in his search for his wife's cure. She underwent various therapies.
He rented a house large enough for him and Terri's parents, who had moved to the area.
He made sure she was dressed every day. He applied her makeup and dabbed on perfume, Rowley said.
He went to school to become a nurse, "because he wanted to take care of Terri," Scott said. "He swore that he could get Terri better... . One doctor said: 'Mike, you know what? There's nothing else we can do. The next time Terri gets sick, why don't you just let nature take its course?' And Mike wouldn't do it."
Death and defining moments
Many of the defining moments of Michael Schiavo's life have revolved around death.
In 1988, his grandmother was hospitalized with a serious illness. She had signed a "do not resuscitate" order, Scott Schiavo said, but when she worsened in the middle of the night, no one looked at her records.
"It took them I don't know how long to get her breathing again. They stuck a ventilator down her throat." To little avail. "She was brain-dead," Scott Schiavo recalled.
All the family could do was wait until medications that kept her heart beating wore off. It took a day and a half, he said.
After the funeral, the family went to the Buck Hotel in Feasterville. Scott and Terri were sitting next to each other at a large table, where the conversation turned to how upset their grandmother would have been at her final hours.
Terri turned to him, Scott Schiavo said, "and she said, 'Not me, no way, I don't want that.' She says, 'If I'm ever like that, oh, don't let me. Pull that tube out of me.' " Scott Schiavo said he testified about the incident in 2000.
Several years after Terri collapsed, Michael Schiavo's mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Eventually, medical complications required the removal of her feeding tube, Scott said. "It's not like we said: 'Turn it off.' "
She was kept "peaceful and out of pain" until she died, Scott said.
Then their father died.
Eventually, Scott said, his brother realized he would have to let Terri go, too.
The Schindlers - who did not respond to a request for an interview made through their lawyer - have been distrustful of his motives partly because, they have said, no one mentioned Terri's wishes until years after her collapse.
But, Scott said, "it's not something you think about while Mike's trying to save her life... . It's something that people do when there's nothing left to do."
This particular fight has not come without a price.
"I give Mike all the credit in the world, because I would have snapped already. I know how bad it hurts me when I hear people talking about him and downing him," Scott Schiavo said.
Most of all, Scott said, "the thing that tears him up is he worries at nighttime, if he's working. He's afraid for the kids and Jodi."
Love and moral dilemmas
Michael Schiavo met his girlfriend, identified in court records as Jodi Centonze, about a decade ago.
Initially, Rowley, who was Centonze's friend, didn't know what to think. The court battles had not yet heated up, but she knew the situation with Terri.
When Rowley met Michael Schiavo, what she noticed first was his "great smile, a gentle smile."
Gradually, her respect grew. "He could have stepped off and divorced Terri five years ago, when this really hit the court. And got married and started his family that way," Rowley said.
The couple has two toddlers - a daughter and a son. Michael Schiavo works in the medical unit of the Pinellas County Jail.
Both Centonze and Michael Schiavo had to face "their own moral dilemmas as far as having children out of wedlock," Rowley said. "But the two of them weren't getting any younger... So does that make him a bad person because he did that? Did he fluff his responsibility to Terri at any point? No."
It is Centonze, Scott Schiavo said, who now does all Terri's laundry. "She's been unbelievable. She supported Mike in everything he did... . She's gone with Mike to visit Terri. She's helped Mike clean Terri up."
Centonze has been a flashpoint for Michael Schiavo's critics who think it is a reason to disqualify him to be Terri's guardian. His living with Centonze "abrogates the covenant of marriage," said Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, who was among the demonstrators outside the hospice on Friday.
Looking back on it now, Scott thinks his brother "just wanted somebody to love him." He equates it with a widower who remarries, "but it doesn't mean that that person stopped loving their spouse that passed on. Mike was very lonely. I mean, he was a 26-year-old kid" when Terri collapsed.
"It's hard to imagine the circumstances he lived under," friend Russ Hyden said. "There was no closure, yet there was no companionship either. That's the worst possible scenario."
Hyden had met Schiavo in 1991. Hyden's pregnant wife had been diagnosed with cancer. A mutual friend thought they "might have something in common. And we did."
But it was more than that they were both going through "life-changing ordeals," Hyden said. "We both liked to play a little golf. We enjoyed each other's company."
Hyden scoffs at the accusations about Schiavo taking the malpractice money awarded to Terri. "If there was so much money, where was that money when I first met Mike? Why wasn't he driving a big car and living in a big home? He was driving a Jeep and living in an apartment."
Hyden's wife lived for almost three more years. He and Schiavo spoke or saw each other several times a week.
"He was always great with my kids," Hyden said. Hyden's daughter was 2, his son 7, and Michael brought them gifts.
"He spent a great deal of time helping me put my family back together," Hyden said. "Perhaps it was because his had fallen so tragically apart."
Sympathy for Terri's parents
In a way, Michael Schiavo has said he can sympathize with Terri's parents. "I have children, and, you know, I couldn't even fathom what it would be like to lose a child," he said in an interview on Nightline last week.
But, he continued, "they know the condition Terri is in. They were there in the beginning. They heard the doctors. They know that Terri's in a persistent vegetative state. They testified to that at the original trial. Fifteen years - you've got to come to grips with it sometime."
He said Terri would "always be a part of my life.
"And to sit here and be called a murderer and an adulterer by people that don't know me, and a governor stepping into my personal, private life, who doesn't know me either? And using his personal gain to win votes, just like the legislators are doing right now, pandering to the religious right, to the people up there, the antiabortion people, standing outside of Tallahassee?
"What kind of government is this? This is a human being. This is not right."
In a way, Michael Schiavo's world still revolves around Terri. He calls every day and visits several times a week, Scott Schiavo said. He can still talk to her, even if she doesn't talk back.
Michael Schiavo yesterday told CNN that he had a "sense of relief" now that the feeding tube had been removed and he promised to "stay by her side" till the end.
"This is her time...," he said. "I will love her and I will hold her hand."
Contact staff writer Sandy Bauers at 610-701-7635 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congress tries again to stop Schiavo death
Timeline of the Terri Schiavo Case
Recent court rulings and other materials related to the Terri Schiavo case:
5 Wishes a Site that helps one prepare if one is unable to speak for themselves.
Partnership for Caring
Statutory Form of Declaration
I try to always be fair and listen and frankly in the end we may disagree but we do so based on an intellectual and respectful discussion. Which is what makes Free Republic great.
I've got just one question: What if he's lying?
This is BS.
Thank you very much for this post, Chickie!
What if he's not?
He is not to be believed. Where is his so called honor when he never honored his marriage vows? He wants her dead because he is guilty of abuse or something that caused Terri to be this way in the first place.
But if she dies and he's lying, how in Hades does that get redressed?
I don't care who is lying and who isnt, death threats go above and beyond the normal bounds and no matter what this jack@$$ adulterer did or didnt do, is uncalled for.
Just trying to be a little more accurate.
If Terri was a practicing Catholic, this would be against her religion...
I would believe the guy if he wasn't shacked up with another woman and had 2 kids already.
But thats not reality.
If he's sticking by what he promised and he is so honorable, how can he explain the 2 kids with another woman?!?!
The news said tonight that this 'husband' waited over 7 years to remember that his wife didn't want to be kept alive by tubes....of course after he got over a million dollars to take care if her 'for life' which he of course gets to decide exactly what that means.
M Schiavo is a zero not a hero. If he kills Terri, he kills himself.
This is a case of fatal attraction as he dances with death. He's on a hell bound train.
And so would cremation.
But to that group of men who have been through it too, he's a real hero.
how do you know?
Because he would then leave himself open to possible lawsuits and/or charges of abusing Teri by denying her therapy for all these years
What if the Schindlers are lying?
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