After 55 days of forced separation, Bob and Mary Schindler were allowed a one-hour visit Sunday with their daughter, Terri, the 40-year-old, brain-disabled Florida woman who is being kept in virtual seclusion by order of her estranged husband, Michael Schiavo.
“It was wonderful; I couldn’t believe it,” Mary told WorldNetDaily. “I just put my arms around her and hugged and kissed her, and she really looked good.”
Mary said that when they arrived at the scheduled time, 1 p.m, Terri was dressed and sitting upright in her special “geri” chair, and seemed as happy to have her parents visit as they were to be with her.
“She was so excited to see us,” Mary exclaimed. “She laughed and she cried, and she tried so hard to talk – I think she even said ‘uh huh,’ twice. She kept following me back and forth with her eyes, and it was like she was saying ‘please, don’t leave.'”
Terri tried to respond verbally to her father as well. “Bob would talk to her and she’d listen, then she’d try to answer him,” Mary said.
During their visit, the Schindlers were able to check a matter that has caused them considerable concern: Terri’s health, particularly her teeth.
Terri Schiavo responding to her mother in video clip available
The last news they received regarding their daughter’s health was in April, by way of a fax from one of Schiavo’s attorneys to an attorney of theirs explaining that Terri had had five teeth extracted on an unspecified date in mid-April. No details were given, and there has been no news about her health since then.
The Schindlers discovered that the five extracted teeth included two upper left molars that had broken off and a third molar next to them, and two lower left molars.
They also learned Terri was being given an antibiotic, but Schiavo would not allow the nursing staff to tell them why.
They remained a little over an hour, and Terri was alert for about half that time – “then she just shut down like she normally does,” Mary said. “But she came back up in the last 10 minutes as we were getting ready to leave,” she added.
The Schindlers have not seen Terri since March 29, when their son-in-law – who as Terri’s legal guardian has absolute control over her – barred all visitors pending completion of a police investigation after marks, said to resemble “puncture wounds,” were allegedly found on her arms following a 45-minute visit by the Schindlers at Park Place assisted living facility in Clearwater where she has been living since mid-December.
The ban on visitation was kept firmly in place even on Easter and Mother’s Day, and the desperate parents wondered if they’d ever see their beloved daughter again.
Their hopes were raised on May 14 when police released the results of a lengthy investigation, which concluded Terri did not suffer “puncture wounds” or other physical abuse.
“The Clearwater Police Department found no evidence of criminal activity, no indication of attempted criminal activity, and no harm done to Mrs. Schiavo,” said Police Chief Sid Klein in a statement announcing the cased was now closed.
That evening, they drove from their Gulf Port home to Park Place, hoping and expecting to see their daughter, but not sure they’d be allowed. It turned out their fears were justified. Despite their being completely cleared of allegations, Schiavo still refused to allow his in-laws to visit his wife, though he did not inform them directly.
Upon arriving at Park Place, they waited anxiously outside the door of their daughter’s room while the nursing supervisor telephoned Schiavo for instructions.
Without any explanation, he told the supervisor to tell them no.
“I was standing right outside her door, just a few feet away from her, and I couldn’t even peek in to see her,” Mary recalled. “Then the nurse comes back and tells us, ‘Michael Schiavo says no.'”
Since October, Terri has been kept under guard by a string of off-duty police officers stationed around-the-clock outside her room – a demand by Schiavo to ensure his wife’s “privacy.”
‘I’m really sorry’
The officer that evening seemed as appalled as the Schindlers by the blunt refusal.
“That poor policeman, he didn’t say anything, but he looked at me – then he said, ‘I’m really sorry,’ and he walked away,” said Mary.
A full week went by. The Schindlers grew increasingly angry over the continued denial, but Michael remained adamantly opposed to any visits. Then on Saturday, one of Schiavo’s attorneys, George Felos, responded to an e-mail request for visitation from the Schindler’s attorney, Patricia Anderson.
Felos said Terri’s parents could visit the next day from 1 to 2 p.m., but they couldn’t be alone with her. As he had done during Terri’s week-long starvation in October, Michael would send a “representative” to stay with them in the room and monitor the visit.
Anderson phoned the Schindlers with the news.
The representative was a young woman, Gloria Centonze, a relative of Schiavo’s girlfriend, Jodi Centonze, with whom he’s been living for nine years and with whom he has two children.
Gloria remained in the room throughout the visit.
Bobby Schindler, Terri’s younger brother, came with his parents to see his sister, but wasn’t allowed in the room. He spent the hour talking with the policeman in the hallway, loud enough that Terri could hear his voice.
Mary explained the situation to her daughter as best she could.
“I kept telling Terri, ‘Do you hear? That’s Bobby out there, and as soon as he can he’s going to come to see you, but he can’t see you right now,'” Mary said.
The issue of visitation rights is scheduled to be heard at a two-hour hearing tomorrow before probate Judge George Greer, who has presided over the case since 1999 and is responsible for the rulings, all of which have favored Michael Schiavo.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Terri suffered massive brain injury when she collapsed under unexplained circumstances in the couple’s apartment in February 1990 at the age of 26. Oxygen to her brain was cut off for several minutes, leaving her severely brain-disabled, incapacitated and dependent upon a feeding tube for sustenance.
Four years ago, Schiavo convinced Judge Greer to allow him to remove her feeding tube so she would starve to death, as is allowed in Florida.
Through a series of legal maneuvers, the Schindlers have kept the case and their daughter alive. Their options appeared to have run out last year when the 2nd District Court of Appeal made a final ruling in Schiavo’s favor and the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
In October, Terri endured six days without nourishment or hydration before Florida lawmakers passed “Terri’s Law,” allowing Gov. Jeb Bush to step in and order her feeding tube reinserted, an action immediately challenged by Schiavo attorney Felos as unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge W. Douglas Baird handed a victory to Schiavo by summarily ruling the law unconstitutional. The decision could clear the way for removal of Terri’s feeding tube and her death.
Information, including court documents, are posted on the Schindler family website.