Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Very Special Thank You!

A Very Special Thank You!

Written in October 2003

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I have been in the medical profession for 25 years. My expertise as a nurse and former Paramedic lies in acute care settings and working as a Nurse Administrator in Skilled Nursing Facilities.

I am writing because I want to publicly thank and recognize a very powerful group of people who I have never personally met. People who have been actively involved on the Internet now spending hundreds of hours looking into the 13 year saga of "What REALLY Happened To Terri Schiavo?"

First, I must preface my thank you by saying the following story is my experience with regard to what has transpired amongst hundreds of nurses and other people, who together over these last 2 weeks have joined forces on the Internet to Fight4Terri.

It was the usual sunny and warm day in Florida. All was good except for the horrifying reports blasting across every news station. The reports had stated that a local judge, at the request of an estranged spouse named Michael Schiavo, was issuing a court order to remove the feeding tube from a 39 year old disabled woman, named Terri Schiavo.

It was reported that Ms. Schiavo, a patient at Woodside Hospice Unit in Pinellas County had round the clock vigil protest taking place in front of the hospice facility. Pinellas is the next county over from where I presently reside.
Judge Greer, was ordering the removal of Ms Schiavo's feeding tube at 2:00 PM; a feeding tube that had been adequately providing Terri's disabled body nutrition for well over 10 years.

The news repeatedly reported that her spouse, the self appointed legal Guardian, Michael Schiavo, (who presently resides with another woman, has fathered one child and has one on the way )had filed a request with the court to starve Terri to death.
Schiavo and his lawyer George Felos were demanding that the courts oblige their request. Their requested motion was honored, despite Terri's alert status, ability to understand, and her ability to experience pain.

When I heard that Judge Greer had ruled to remove Terri's tube, I decided to get into my car and drive to the Hospice Unit. I felt an urgency to see the scene with my own eyes. To try and obtain answers and truth as to what had brought Terri into this most unbelievable and untenable situation.

Upon my arrival at the hospice unit, I found a most surreal atmosphere!

Camera men were every where pacing the streets in preparation to film any unusual developments. Prayer groups and others were tiredly pleading with signs to help an innocent woman. Disabled people with saddened, worried and distressed expressions sat in their in wheelchairs. Police cars were blocking and checking everyone at all entrances and exits to the facility. It appeared as though they were protecting a key eyewitness to a heinous crime, not an innocent disabled woman who had fallen victim to a crazed spouse wanting to starve her to death!

The answers to many of my questions were soon available to me.
Mr. Schindler, the family clergy Father Melanowski, and many others were eager to provide the answers that I had come to find out. The many concerns that I had prior to my arrival were now before me. I felt as though I had just entered into some form of the Twilight Zone.

Everything was exactly as the news had been reporting!

Before me, inside of an expansive brick building, was an innocent disabled woman who was being starved to death. The Police were swarming the property...but NOT to protect Terri from the insane spouse and his concubine who wanted to see her dead by starvation! They were protecting Terri from her loving parents and siblings. A loving mother and father who together had created and brought Terri into this world. Protecting her from parents who had spent years raising their baby daughter into
becoming a loving and caring adult. Protecting her from her brother and sister, who she had sat along side and played games with for years while growing up.

The police weren't protecting Terri from her family because they had done anything wrong to Terri. They were protecting Terri because Michael Schiavo said that they could not visit their daughter without his permission, or without one of his legal representatives sitting in her room while they were visiting with her. Michael wanted to be assured that no one in Terri's family would reach out and offer Terri one morsel of food. He wanted to be assured that her parents endured the agony of
watching their daughter die from starvation, and not be permitted to reach out to help her. Her family priest was even denied the right to give her a small piece of Holy

Could this really be happening, I questioned?
Am I dreaming?
Have I somehow been transported to the insides of a Nazi regime?
Someone, please awaken me from this nightmare that was before me!

When reality struck, I knew that I had to confirm some of the professional questions relating to the admissions policies into a Florida Hospice Unit. I picked up my cell phone and called the Hospice Unit requesting that Michael Bell, Vice President of Woodside Hospice return my call. Minutes later, my phone rang. We spoke briefly, but succinctly. It became evident after a few minutes that he had clearly understood my questions and statements. He also knew exactly where I was coming from, and where it was that I would be going with my complaints and concerns.

Knowing that Terri was receiving Medicare and Medicaid benefits, it had appeared the facility had not admitted Terri in accordance to the standard Medicare/Medicaid criteria. Terri was not, and is not terminally ill. Reliable sources conveyed that Terri did not have a certifying physician stating that she had 6 months or less to live.

From what I had also ascertained from another reliable source.....Terri's DNR (another criteria for admitting into a hospice unit) probably was not legal. Michael Schiavo, without being Terri's DPOA=Durable Power of Attorney, had designated himself her Guardian and had then signed her DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders a few years after her trauma.

Could this really be? I continued to question!

At the time, I did not know why, or how, her being admitted into a Hospice Unit was accomplished. I later learned that Michael's "Right To Die" attorney, George Felos, had some connections on the board to the Hospice Unit. I was told by the Schindlers' attorney that Felos had created some "indigent" placement rules in an effort to get around the doctor's certification. How Felos legally accomplished this feat, I have yet to ascertain. Especially since Terri is not indigent.

I have seen some very peculiar cases in my years as a Nurse/Paramedic and Administrator ... but this one for sure, really had my eyebrows pinned to my hairline!
I thought to myself, "no way in the United States of America and in the year 2003, could this situation be happening to a disabled individual."
However, indeed, it was!

From that point on, I was determined to make a concerted effort to help!

I returned home at 1:00 AM and immediately logged on to the Internet. I made a formal email plea to every nurse that I could locate, asking for assistance and support in researching and filing the necessary complaint papers with the state of Florida. Terri needed the support in numbers! We also needed to seek the truth and locate evidence about what really happened to Terri Schiavo.

Needless to say, the response I received over the Internet was phenomenal and overwhelming. The first day I had spent 20 straight hours at my computer attempting to answer all of the emails! Nurses and professionals from all over the country were emailing me. All had voiced their opinions and were willingly offering their expertise and assistance.

Yes, absolutely! Every one of the people who emailed were in support of Ms. Terri-Schindler-Schiavo and willing to help me in my fight for Terri.

I then created the screen name Fight4Terri. Others followed by numbering consecutively after me. Fight4Terri1...Fight4Terri2..Fight4Terri3...Fight4Terri4 and on and on the list developed!

I have been compelled to write and share how many nurses and other people in America are on Terri's side. To tell you all about those wonderful people who have joined together on the Internet to help me in my Fight4Terri.
Nurses and people from every walk of life who have essentially joined together in a Florence Nightingale Internet crusade. All joined in an effort to delve for answers with regard to Terri's medical history, her advance directives, and her lack of care. Everyone joined me to find out why Michael Schiavo has been trying to kill an innocent woman named Terri in a most inhumane and tragic way!

We soon found many of our answers via the resources available to us on the Internet. We also knew that we had to unite in a hurry in an effort to save Terri. Everyone began writing letters and making phone calls to every media station known to man! When we had questions that we could not comprehend, a wonderful and very helpful woman attorney named Pat Anderson, was there to help us. We had to hurry because time was of the essence. The feeding tube had been pulled and we knew Terri's electrolytes would soon be compromised. Terri's kidneys would soon cease to function. We had to race! To race against innocent woman's life!

Through repeated emails, petitions and phone calls, everyone contacted the Board of Nursing, the Governor, the state Medicare offices, the media, the Judicial Qualifications Committee, Harvard attorney's, Hospice Foundations, advocacy groups for the disabled and the list goes on. Again, all in an effort to move quickly to have Terri's tube reinserted and save her life.

Days have passed now. Terri's tube has now been reinserted and the initial crisis has been resolved! At least for the time being! However, as I write this letter, Michael Schiavo and his attorney George Felos are presently fighting to have Terri's tube again removed. What is different now and what they don't realize is that my Fight4Terri has just begun! I, and others will not stop at saving her.

At this time, I wish to thank all of the wonderful nurses and people from all professions who I now have become privileged to know through the Internet and who have joined me in my Fight4Terri. All who are fighting and praying everyday for Terri's life and cause!

Donna LPN, from West Virginia, Karen,RN from Florida, Pat from Clearwater, Ted W, professional businessman from Colorodo, Laurie from Michigan, mother of a child with TBI & patient advocate, Deb, the talented investigative nurse from Kansas, Jackie, Sara, Lisa , Barbara, Lori, Jan, Angie, Juan, Cyndi, Jameson, and the list goes on forever!

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of Terri for your dedication.

I also thank all of the nurses for your above and beyond call of duty to help oblige the ethical oath that states, "maintain life."

Let it be known that our FIGHT is unrelenting, and will continue!

Respectfully and with great admiration,

Cheryl Ford RN
Tampa, Florida