A Second Visit With Terri

The February 24, 2005, Visit Narrative

by

Attorney Barbara Weller

            I have visited Terri Schindler Schiavo several times since I first met her on the day before Christmas in 2004.  Today was an especially poignant visit so I decided to again share it with all those who have been so concerned for her.

Attorney David Gibbs III and I visited Terri to update her on the good things that were happening in the legal case.  We believe that she comprehends at some level what is going on and that she may well have been aware of the fear and anguish her parents and siblings were feeling on February 21 when the possibility existed that the process of starvation and dehydration might again be initiated leading to her death.

We made this visit with her mother and father, Bob and Mary Schindler.  For the first time since I have been visiting her, security guards were posted by Terri’s door and visitors had to clear two check points before entering the room.  The Schindlers are very grateful that Terri has been given this extra protection to keep her safe during this difficult time.

When Mr. Gibbs and I entered the room with Bob, Mary was already there.  Terri was again sitting in her lounge chair, at nearly an upright angle.  Mary was perched on the arm of the chair with her head right next to Terri’s head.  Mary was talking to Terri and kissing her and Terri’s eyes were wide and locked onto her mother’s eyes.  Mary was saying “I love you” and trying to get Terri to repeat the words after her.  Mary would say “I-I-I-I” and Terri would answer back “Aa-a-u-u-ugh.”  Mary would then say “l-o-o-o-v-v-v-v-e” and Terri would repeat “Aw-w-w-w-w-w.”  Mary then said a staccato “you” to which Terri did not audibly respond.

Within a minute or two after we entered the room, Terri began to appear tired.  She had been interacting with Mary for a half hour before we arrived and seemed to need a little rest.  She closed her eyes while the four of us chatted.  When Mary tried to get her attention, she would try to open her eyes, but they would flutter shut again.  Mary was coaxing Terri to wake up, telling her that she had some “very important visitors” (Mr. Gibbs and myself).  Finally, after a few minutes of coaxing, Terri’s eyes opened wide again and she again locked them on her mother’s face.

After a few minutes, Mr. Gibbs began to talk to her.  When Terri heard Mr. Gibbs’ voice she became startled.  She threw her head backwards and made a loud snorting sound.  While Mr. Gibbs continued to talk to her she was opening and closing her eyes, sometimes looking in his direction and sometimes appearing to be resting.  Mr. Gibbs told her about the good things that were happening, about all the people around the world who love her and who are praying for her, and that the government had stepped in to protect her and to try to help her.  He stressed, like you would to a small child, how blessed Terri was to have a mom and dad who loved her.  Terri seemed quite content listening to Mr. Gibbs speak.

I next took a turn to talk with Terri.  I went to the spot where her mother had been and began to talk quietly to her about the party we are all going to have when she goes home.  I also prayed with her.  The whole time I was speaking to her and praying for her, her eyes were wide open and fixated on my face.  At one point, she tried to talk with me, making a very quiet “a-a-a-a-a” sound.  I had the impression that my voice was perhaps somewhat familiar to her since I have now been to see her several times.

When her father went to stand by her side on Terri’s left, Mr. Gibbs had moved to her right, on the other side of Terri’s bed, which is next to her lounge chair.  Earlier in Terri’s room Bob had joked with Mr. Gibbs that everybody wanted to talk to Mr. Gibbs now and nobody cared what Bob had to say anymore making him jealous.  Bob began to joke with Terri as he always does and Terri’s face took on the same coy, semi-annoyed look that I have seen before when she interacts with her father.  At that point, Terri arched her back and turned her whole body to the right, away from Bob, to gaze intently at Mr. Gibbs with a little saucy smile on her face.  It seemed obvious to me that she was playing along with the joke by giving her father the cold shoulder and focusing all her attention on Mr. Gibbs.  Bob continued to tease with her about this for a few minutes and then gave her his customary hug and kiss, to which she responded with her usual lemon face that she reserves for his mustache kisses.

The four of us spent several more minutes joking and laughing together.  Terri did not speak, but watched and listened to us.  When it was time to go, Mary went up to Terri’s head to say goodbye.  At that point Terri began to cry and to look very distressed.  Mary said that Terri does not always cry when they leave, but she sometimes does.  Mary promised that the whole family would return the next day, but Terri did not stop crying.  When Mary left the room, I went up to Terri’s head and leaned close and told her that even though her mother and father could not always be with her that she was not alone.  When I told her that, Terri widened her eyes again.  She was no longer crying when I left the room.

This visit lasted about forty minutes.  We encourage everyone to continue to pray for Terri and her family, especially that Terri will soon be receiving the help she needs to learn to speak and to swallow and that she will soon be home with her family again.