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IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA

PROBATE DIVISION

IN RE: THE GUARDIANSHIP OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO, Incapacitated.

File No. 90-2908GD-003

 


MICHAEL SCHIAVO, as Guardian of the Person of THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO, Petitioner,

vs.

ROBERT SCHINDLER and MARY SCHINDLER, Respondents.

 


DECLARATION OF MARY SCHINDLER

STATE OF FLORIDA

COUNTY OF PINELLAS

I, MARY SCHINDLER, Respondent in the above-styled case, hereby declare under penalty of perjury:

1. My name is Mary Schindler and I am competent to make this declaration. I reside in Gulfport, Pinellas County, Florida.

2. I am the mother of the Ward, Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo.

3. Even though she is married, I still have a mother’s concern to know on a regular basis what care my disabled daughter, Terri, is receiving and how she is doing. On June 18, 1996 the Honorable Judge Thomas Penick recognized my natural desires as a mother and ordered Michael Schiavo, my daughter’s husband and guardian, to make it possible for my husband and me to receive medical information about Terri directly from her caregivers.

4. I visit Terri on a regular basis, talk to her, brush her hair, wash her face, and generally interact with her to assure myself that she is well, happy, and receiving the care her disability demands. On those occasions, I naturally also interact with Terri’s caregivers.

5. On or about Monday, February 16, 2004, I visited Terri at the Park Place Assisted Living Facility in Clearwater, Florida, where she is currently receiving care. Visiting with me were Michael and Claudia Tammaro, relatives who reside at 4127 Timber Lane, Corning, New York.

6. When the three of us entered Terri’s room, we were met by one of Terri’s nurses, whose name I am withholding because of fear of retaliation against her, who asked me to accompany her to the nurses’ room, where she told me that Terri had vomited on Saturday night, February 14, and again on Sunday, February 15.

7. This nurse informed me that when she had spoken about these incidents with Terri’s husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, he told her not to bother him but to call Dr. Tripodis. Michael did not inform us of this change in Terri’s medical condition as required in the Court Order issued by Judge Penick in 1996. This change was significant since vomiting could cause aspiration and serious illness or death.

8. I was very concerned at that point because of the high risk of Terri aspirating and drowning in her own vomit if she is not adequately elevated when she vomits or is fed. So when I returned home, I called Dr. Tripodis myself. He told me he had been informed, but that he had to be careful about what he told me.

9. On or about Tuesday, February 17, I called Park Place to be sure that Terri was being taken care of and was recovering. I was told only that Terri’s feeding had been resumed and that she was fine, but the nurse, whose name I am withholding because of fear of retaliation against her, told me that per Michael’s instructions, she was not permitted to tell me anything else.

10. On or about, Wednesday, February 18, I called the facility again to inquire about Terri’s medical condition. During that telephone inquiry, the same nurse referenced in No. 9, above, could again tell me only that Terri was OK. Later that afternoon when I called again to inquire about Terri, another nurse, whose name I do not know, told me by telephone that the nurses had been told by Michael not to tell the family anything.

11. On or about Thursday, February 19, when my husband visited Terri at the facility, he was told the same thing I had been told that the nurses were not permitted to tell us anything. He was informed they could not even tell us whether the doctor had visited Terri.

12. On or about Friday, February 20, I called Dr. Tripodis’ office because I was concerned that I could not receive any information from Terri’s caregivers at the facility and I was further concerned that Terri’s food might enter her lungs if she were not elevated while she was fed and that the staff might not inform the doctor if this happened again. I spoke with Dr. Tripodis’ nurse, Brandy, who also told me that she could not speak with me or give me any information about Terri’s medical condition.

13. The events that occurred on or about February 14 through February 20, 2004, are illustrative of many similar previous events that have occurred since the 1996 Court Order was issued by Judge Penick. Numerous other personnel in other facilities where Terri has been kept have told me that, pursuant to direction from Michael Schiavo, they could not tell me, as Terri’s concerned mother, anything about her medical condition.

14. Since Judge Thomas Penick issued his Court Order in 1996 requiring Michael to allow me and my husband and Terri’s father, Robert Schindler, to receive medical information from Terri’s caregivers about Terri’s condition, I have regularly kept a diary detailing all of our interactions with Terri’s caregivers. I am concerned that Michael has regularly blocked both my husband and me from being given reports of Terri’s medical condition from her caregivers. We are also concerned that those wonderful caregivers who from time to time have given us such medical information over the years, out of compassion for our desperate situation, have sometimes risked their jobs to give us this information against contrary orders from Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband and guardian.

15. The situation of noncompliance that occurred from February 14 through February 20, 2004 regarding Judge Penick’s 1996 Court Order is not unique. There are other instances when Michael has not followed through on his promises to us. For instance, on December 19, 2001, during a court ordered mediation between the parties with Judge Horace A. Andrews, Michael again agreed to permit Terri’s caregivers to tell my husband and me directly about Terri’s medical condition.

16. At the same time, during this December 19, 2001 mediation, Michael also agreed to permit my husband and me to take Terri outside to get some fresh air. In order to make that possible, Michael also agreed during the mediation to have Terri’s wheelchair fixed since the only wheelchair available at the facility to take Terri outside for stimulation and fresh air was not stable or safe.

17. Michael never followed through on any of the agreements he made during this 2001 mediation with Judge Andrews. My husband and I were still unable to receive information from Terri’s caregivers, who often indicated that they were following Michael’s orders not to tell us anything. Also, we were never able to take Terri outside since her wheelchair was never fixed and there was no other way to accomplish this recreational diversion for Terri.

18. In August, 2003, when Terri was admitted twice to Morton Plant Hospital, including on or about August 14, 2003, my husband and I were given no information about her medical condition or the negative change in her health situation as required by Judge Penick’s 1996 Court Order. At that time we could not even find out from her caregivers at the Woodside Hospice facility where she had been taken or what had happened to her.

19. As frantic parents, we begged two caregivers at the facility, whose names I am withholding because of fear of retaliation against them, to at least tell us where Terri was and what had happened to her, but they told us they were not permitted to tell us anything because Michael would not permit it.

20. Since Terri had always been taken to Morton Plant Hospital for medical treatment in the past, we went there to inquire if Terri had been admitted. Personnel at Morton Plant Hospital would not confirm to us whether Terri was or was not there and they also told us that they could not tell us anything about her medical condition. Since that time we have not been able to receive any of Terri’s medical records from that facility so that we can know what her condition was and why she was released and then almost immediately readmitted despite an order from this Court in August, 2003 to Michael to provide us with medical records from Morton Plant. Furthermore, when these medical emergencies occurred, Michael did not inform us of the change in Terri’s condition as required by Judge Penick’s 1996 Order.

21. My husband and I do not trust either the accuracy or completeness of any medical information that is given to us by Michael through his attorneys. Such information has not been provided to us in a timely manner and it often directly contradicts what little we do know. For instance, on February 17, 2004, when our attorney, Pat Anderson, asked Mr. Felos specific medical questions about the recent vomiting incident discussed in Nos. 5 through 12 of this affidavit, Mr. Felos’ only response was that “Dr. Tripodis has been informed about Terri’s vomiting, and would be visiting her (if he hadn’t done so already).” This did not answer the specific medical questions we had about a situation that could have been immediately life threatening to Terri. Subsequent requests have also not been complete and are sometimes contradictory to what we know or what we see when we visit Terri.

22. In preparation for a March 26, 2004 court hearing, our attorney, Barbara Weller, contacted Debbie Bushnell by letter for answers to some of our outstanding medical questions. After several letters, some medical information was provided, but not all that we had asked for. Additionally, some of our continuing questions involve situations of significant changes in Terri’s medical condition which we had never been informed about at the time, as required by Judge Penick’s 1996 Order.

23. Finally, the manner in which medical information was transmitted to us from Michael’s attorneys was sometimes insulting and accusatory and was very upsetting to us. The goal of Michael and his attorneys is directly opposite to our goal. Michael’s goal is to terminate Terri’s life, while our goal is to see that she is adequately cared for.

24. After our attorney, Pat Anderson, filed the current Motion regarding Michael’s continuing violation of Judge Penick’s 1996 Court Order and this Court’s Order of August, 2003, Michael wrote a letter dated February 26, 2004 permitting Terri’s caregivers to give us medical information. It is our impression from our interactions with Terri’s previous and current caregivers that this is the first time such a letter has ever been written to comply with Judge Penick’s Order.

25. When we took Michael’s February 26, 2004 letter and the 1996 Court Order to the Park Place facility and again requested information about Terri’s medical condition, we were still told by one of Terri’s caregivers, whose name I am withholding out of fear of retaliation against her, that she could still not give us any information about Terri’s medical condition.

26. Based on our previous experiences, some of which have been specifically reiterated here, we are concerned that, despite Michael’s letter and the Court Order, Michael may still be giving Terri’s caregivers verbal orders not to tell either me or Terri’s father anything about her medical condition. We are concerned that Michael may continue to verbally contradict the 1996 Court Order and his February 26, 2004 letter in the future if we are not given independent access to Terri’s medical information.

DECLARANT SAYS NOTHING FURTHER.

I hereby declare, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and belief. Executed this _____ day of March, 2004, at Seminole, Florida.

MARY SCHINDLER

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