Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sacramento Bee article

A SacBee article about the Terri Schiavo case.

It really describes how I instinctively viewed this case.
In fact I may have even had something like the title
verbatim in my head when I thought of her parents.

Unfortunately you need a SacBee registration to view it
so I had to copy the whole damn thing here.

A joy, not a burden
Yuba family with a teen on feeding tube says: Let Terri Schiavo live

By Blair Anthony Robertson -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Friday, March 25, 2005

Her name is Amy Callahan. Three weeks shy of her 14th birthday, she's 4 1/2 feet tall and weighs 47 pounds.

And like Terri Schiavo, Amy survives with the help of a feeding tube, which channels liquid nutrition and distilled water directly into her stomach.

Early Wednesday, Amy's parents drove her 45 miles from their home outside Wheatland to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento because their only daughter was moaning and writhing for reasons unknown. It has been that way on and off for most of her difficult life.

Amy was born with Edward's syndrome, a rarer and more severe form of mental retardation than Down syndrome. Only 10 percent of babies with the genetic defect survive their first year.

As the debate over Schiavo's right to live or die continues to divide the nation, parents like Lowell and America Callahan have emerged to argue for continuing the Florida woman's life, saying they know better than most what she and her parents are enduring.

"Society thinks these children are a burden. Until you have one yourself, you don't realize it's a labor of love," said America Callahan, whose unusual first name is a family legacy going back generations and continues with Amy, whose real name is America.

"She has taught us so much and she doesn't even speak. She has taught us compassion. She has taught us appreciation. She has taught us unconditional love."

A visit Wednesday to the pediatric intensive care unit found America Callahan alone in the room with her daughter, holding Amy the way she has held her for so many years, whispering to her and telling her how special she is, that the pain she is feeling will go away soon.

"Hey Peanut Butter, Mama's here," she said in a singsong voice. "What's the matter? It's OK. We're going home. Easter's coming Sunday. Mama's here. Mama's right here."

Amy moaned and writhed and fidgeted. The feeding tube connected to her stomach leads to an elevated bag containing a nutritional formula called PediaSure.

"This is what we feed her," America Callahan said, holding up one of the pop-top cans. "She gets five of these a day. If she doesn't get fed, she knows it. She suffers."

The Callahans also have six sons and two adopted children. Amy's medical costs are split between the family's private health insurance and Medi-Cal, the combined federal and state health insurance program for low-income families or individuals.

When Callahan was four months pregnant, doctors told her that the baby she was carrying would be badly deformed and have almost no chance to survive. They urged her to have an abortion.

"I didn't believe in that," she said.

Said Lowell Callahan, "We were told she would die within three days. Doctors don't know everything."

Amy was born down the hall from the hospital room she was admitted to Wednesday. If all goes well, she could be home by the weekend, her mother said. For whatever reason, she has beaten all odds. She is unable to walk or talk or communicate in any traditional way.

But her mother says Amy has known joy often enough, that she perks up when there is music in the room or when someone reads to her. At church, she often tries to sing, letting out an impossibly long, monotone hum.

Regarding Schiavo, America Callahan says, "I think it's terrible what they are doing to her. I have been crying and on my knees for this poor woman."

On the other side of town from the hospital, 70-year-old Pat Brown feels much the same way. His son, Ryan, has survived on a feeding tube for nearly 15 years, since the young man survived a car crash that killed his girlfriend and another woman.

Brown cares for his son, whose medical costs also are covered by private and public insurance, at his Sacramento home, noting that Ryan, now 33, still has plenty of life in him. When the TV is on, for instance, he seems to react to comedians like Sinbad and Eddie Murphy.

Both families say that their children have no more brain function than Schiavo, but to them, that's not the point.

"I know he's in there. He just can't get out right now, maybe never," Brown said.

"I still have a son and I love every single minute I have with him," he said. "He has never had to wonder if his father loves him."

Brown's former wife, Lucy Brown, lives nearby and is also devoted to caring for Ryan.

Pat Brown says the debate over the Schiavo case hasn't focused enough on the plight of her immediate family.

"If you pulled the plug on my son, he wouldn't give a rat's patootie, I'm sure," he said. "But if you pulled the plug, you would pull the plug on me."

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee


Seppo said...

This will probably sound heartless, but I think that this sentence:

"Both families say that their children have no more brain function than Schiavo, but to them, that's not the point."

is the crux of the matter. The examples that the Bee article gives *aren't* identical to Terri Schiavo's condition. Just because someone's given a feeding tube doesn't make their situation the same.

All it means is that physically, they're incapable of consuming regular food.

I don't know anything about Schiavo's condition other than what I've read, but the fact of the matter is that we've had experts, who have treated her, discussing this in court for seven years, and they've concluded both that she's in a "persistent vegetative state," ****AND**** that Michael Schiavo's belief that she wouldn't want to be in this state to be the truth.

So, there's a difference in their physical states, *and* what Mrs. Schiavo's wishes were as to what to do should she be in this state.


Seppo said...

The wishes of the parents, however rooted in love for their daughter they are, are somewhat irrelevant. The wishes of the actual person in question are paramount, and unfortunately, the way that we have to determine that is through the courts, which after years and years of testimony, have sided with Michael Schiavo, and supposedly as a result, Terri herself.

The problem, of course, is that the media has turned this into a quagmire of disinformation and quackery. Well, the media and the GOP. Bill Frist, talking about his "medical opinion" that Terri Schiavo might recover with treatment was bullshit, and based on watching a few minutes of video, rather than a full diagnosis. There's been a "Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine-nominated physician" who's making the rounds, but there *is no* "Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine" - it's a load of BS, and part of the right wing noise machine.


Seppo said...

So, I realize that sounds harsh, it's just that what's really happened is that this situation has really turned into an exploitative media grab by the Republicans, and a way to appeal to their conservative fanbase (memos have been leaked that make this cynical political manipulation absolutely definite), and the wishes of the person in question, and the fact that they have gotten their due legal process, have been pushed to the side.

The people who have made this decision *had* expert testimony, from the people who treated her, from the people who have spent the most time with her, and from the people who care most about her.

Congress not only has no right, but it is *obscene* that they would interfere in a personal decision regarding a tragedy like this, simply because they don't like the outcome, or agree with the beliefs of the person in question.

Sure, I feel badly for the Schindlers, but their problem is that this woman has been functionally dead for the last fifteen years, and they're simply unwilling to acknowledge that fact.


Arka Roy said...


You've put together a pretty persuasive case, gotta say.

However this article was just trying to show how parents love and, even beyond that, enjoy the company of their children even in this state.

I don't think the parents wishes are irrelevant, perhaps it is the most relevant thing, and I think this article reinforces that angle of it.

Whatever happened to Terri, it was very sudden, so the fact that she might have said to her husband in passing that she doesn't want to live on life support to me sounds more irrelevant. It is something you or I can say casually and regret later. That to me is a pretty scary thought. Gotta be careful what we say or they'll pull the plug!

The courts may have decided in that direction. As you said, that is all we have to go upon. But that doesn't mean that we can't second guess the courts.

In one sense I agree with you that it is not the job of politicians to try to overturn court decisions. However it is also their job to represent the wishes of their constituents, and if many Americans are second-guessing that court decision then I understand a politician's wanting to get in the fray.

Personally I admit it does feel a bit silly being on the side of the right-wingers on this issue. The hypocrisy they employ in other issues is just as evident here. The "Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine-nominated physician" is kinda goofy. Leave it to them to come up with something like that!

And it is strange that these are the people who always trash the Nobel Prize as being a liberal thing, and now they try squeeze credibility from it.

Seppo said...

"In one sense I agree with you that it is not the job of politicians to try to overturn court decisions. However it is also their job to represent the wishes of their constituents, and if many Americans are second-guessing that court decision then I understand a politician's wanting to get in the fray."

That isn't the case, though, in this case. There's a very small, very vocal minority that support Congress in this case, but the vast, vast majority (we're talking like, 87-13 here) disapprove of Congress meddling in a private affair like this.

I agree with you that the Sac Bee article was about parents being able to love and enjoy the company of their children even under extraordinary circumstances, but I think the relevance in the Schiavo case is limited, because Terri Schiavo isn't simply mentally retarded, but from all expert medical testimony, braindead.

And I think that that's a pretty tremendous difference - we're not talking about someone with limited mental capacity - we're talking about someone who has been diagnosed over the course of many years, by professionals, as having *no cognitive ability*.

I think it's tremendously sad for the parents, that they've had to go through this, but in some sense, to me, the saddest part is that they can't let go - they think she's alive, so to them, this judgement is what is killing her, not the situation that originally put her in this state. Not that I don't sympathize with them, and I can't say what I would do if fate were awful enough to put me in their situation.

But, to be completely cold-hearted again, that isn't the point. The point is that the Congress has used this case to totally subvert the authority of the judicial branch for *no credible reason* other than that they found something they decided to politically exploit. And I think that that is utterly foul and intolerable, that this woman and her family's plight would be exploited for political gain (even ass-backwardsly, and with negative overall results, as it has been done).

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