Terri at rest

I chose not to enter the debate on Terri Schiavo and only do so now to report the poor woman's death. At peace at last. The Washington Post has the details


  • May she rest in peace

    This whole incomprehensibley sad affair should make us all think about ‘what if’ we or our loved ones should be placed in this dilemma, as either the injured party or carers.

    I faced this some time ago and have a living will as has my husband,my concern being for my family should I be reduced to a vegative state.

    My motives followed many years of nursing and from two particular cases within my own family.

    As a nurse, I have seen the suffering of all parties and the conflicts that ensue, it is a shame the nursing staff are unable to give an account of what they understand,after 15 years of intimate knowledge of Terri’s condition.

    I will only discuss from my own observations, that time and time again family and friends of such victims, have expressed bitterness that their beloved one cannot be given an injection and allowed to depart in peace and dignity. After being closely involved with the purely physical day to day needs of maintaining hygiene bodily and oral.

    When a one is so severely damages as was Terri, the general public have no concept how truly awful it is to be kept alive in this manner.

    Nothing can be given by mouth, neither food nor fluid, the mouth can become infected, swollen and lips cracked without scrupulous oral hygiene done several times a day.
    The nose has to be kept clean for the same reason.
    The tube into the stomach also a source of infection and the ostomy(opening) cleansed frequently or another source of infection.
    The food administered via this route is usually a hight protein suppliment given 3 or 4 times a day.
    This leads to the waste which is not in solid state draining out of the body in a foul smelling often blackened ooze, the urine very concentrated and foul due to the high proteim content.
    The patient often to be changed hourly, even when nappies/diapers are used and this is a slow unpleasant job for the patient and their carers. often this excrement escapes into the bedding, over the skin surface and into every crack and crannyand getting everywhere and requiring a full bed bath and strangers sponging and rubbing through their genitals.
    If great care is not attended the skin integrity will break down and severe bed sores and pressure areas occur with the ensuing pain and infection and are slow to hea.l

    In an ideal world with a personal team of nursing staff this would be fine ( for the nursing staff) but in too many of such cases, the staff shortages and work loads mean that these people lie in their excreta soiled beds for often much longer than they should, and that is in the better hospitals and institutions- God help those who are just working for profit and reducing costs.

    We all have said, without question, over my 40 years, both nursing staff and family members, that we would rather be dead that have to live in this way.
    If totally brain dead -well the victim is not able comprehend and it the family who suffers terribley, seeing someone they loved,who was vibrant and alive reduced to an incontinant shell. All usually say that the person involved would have hated it.

    If the victim of such circumstance has any cognition it is so much worse- to have to endure the torture and pain of often unintentional rough handling when going through the process of being cleaned up. Remember woman still menstruate, so in addition to faecal matter this too has to be cleansed.
    Just imagine having strangers sometimes aggressive women overtired and stressed themselves probing and roughly washing your most private parts and not being able to compain or indicate that you are suffering, that you have a perpetual grin on your face due to the brain damage so that you cannot indicate by expression that you are angry and upset and feel degraded.
    Of course some have relatives who are in denial of the true situation for multiple reasons and seek to continue this terrible situation in their desire to satisfy some forlorn hope that the victim will one day return to good health and back into society not questioning how the victim would find the years lost and not the one he or she departed from.

    Parents often see what they want to see and misinterpret the patients apparent responses but fail to see that the same response is often the same when an unpleasant procedure is taking place.
    Thet see waht they wish to see and we cannot judge that love can cloud the best of minds.

    Terri was a girl, who like manyyoung women was obsessed by her appearance and it would be safe to hazzard a guess that she would not like to have been subjected to 15 years of hell and to those who think she would be allowed to ‘suffer’ from starvation and dehydration I am sure her attending physicians would have kept her sedated, so that she would be unaware of her last hours /days it took took for her to die.

    On any given day there must be thousands throughout the world who unlike like Terri who will never recieve the high level of care that Terri received, due to the publicity and high profile of her case.
    Finally the nurse who attended Terri if asked would have a far different account to give that Drs and Lawyers.

    As with all terminally ill or incapacitated, such people are the ‘bread and butter’ for the medical fraternity who have to do no more than attend to bedside, make some inconsequential remark and say ‘kepp up the good work Sister!!!!!! and send his account to medicare or the family- easy peasy money for old rope. If they had to let their spotless well manicured hands press flesh or attend to the daily ‘need’s’ I can bet that there would suddenly be a lot more beds available.The Lawyers also have much to gain arging either case for or against.
    The only loser is the victim by every one from those who love too much to those who have something to gain and off course it sells papers.

    Lets pray that we are not ever in this situation because I will guarrantee that all those screaming most loudly and calling ‘ Nazis’those of who wish a peaceful and dignified death for Terri and her fellow sufferers would cry real tears and a different cry if faced personally with the physical daily chores attended on them keeping them alive- just ask any caring good nurse.

  • Thanks Rose. Your experience does put Terri’s case into perspective. I chose not to enter the debate not because I don’t have an opinion. I do but experience tells me that emotion charged debates like this one are never won. Emotion is far from rational. I question the prolongation of life beyond awareness but when lawyers surface they fire ‘words’ at all and sunder while bodies, sans souls, exist as you describe above.

    Terri dissapeared 15 odd years ago and it took that long for her to be at peace.

  • Hi, I think you are totally right. Great! – :) Susan.