Schiavo parents deal with reality

TERRI SCHIAVO'S parents know their brain-damaged daughter is dying and are "dealing with reality", a family spokesman said yesterday, even as their supporters pledged to take their fight to Washington.

On Schiavo's 10th day without food or water, supporters of her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, continued to plead for President Bush and his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, to intervene to have her feeding tube reinserted.

"Everyone is willing to write this woman's obituary except one person. And that's Terri Schiavo herself," said Paul O'Donnell, a Catholic Franciscan monk and a spokesman for her parents. A group of their supporters were heading to protest outside the White House gates yesterday.

President Bush's aides have said they ran out of legal options to help the woman. Gov Bush said yesterday that, while it "made sense" to have federal courts review the case, he had to respect their decisions last week not to order the tube reinserted.

"I have not seen any means by which the executive branch can get involved. My legal counsel has talked to the Schindler family and their lawyer over the weekend," Bush said. "My heart is broken about this."

Neither Schiavo's parents nor her husband offered new, specific details on her condition, but one of the two priests who visited her hospital room Easter Sunday said the brain-damaged woman's "death is imminent."

O'Donnell said Schiavo smiled, raised her hands and made guttural sounds late Sunday while being visited by her father and a friend, who was talking about how she liked to go out dancing.

"They are dealing with reality," O'Donnell said of the Schindlers in an interview on NBC's Today. "They know their daughter is dying. They know what is about to happen."

Schiavo's parents dispute that their daughter is in a persistent vegetative state as court-ordered doctors have determined. Michael Schiavo contends his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially.

Fewer than 10 protesters stayed overnight in rain and wind. A man was arrested before dawn trying to take a jug of water to Schiavo.

Schiavo's mother did not visit her daughter on Easter, emotions keeping her from the hospice for the first time since Terri's feeding tube was removed 10 days ago, O'Donnell said. "If she goes in there again, we might have to take her to the hospital."

But the woman's parents claimed one Easter victory: Schiavo's husband, Michael, allowed her to receive communion wine.

As her brother, sister and brother-in-law watched, the Rev Thaddeus Malanowski held Terri's right hand as he and the hospice priest, the Rev Joseph Braun, placed the droplet on her tongue.

Malanowski also anointed her with holy oil, offered a blessing and absolved her of sin. "She received the blood of Christ," said Malanowski, adding that he could not give her a fleck of communion bread because her tongue was too dry.

Tensions were noticeably heightened both among the protesters and, apparently, among the closest confidants to the woman's parents. David Gibbs III, their lead lawyer, told CBS' Face the Nation that Schiavo has "passed where physically she would be able to recover."

"In the family's opinion, that is absolutely not true," spokesman Randall Terry said outside the hospice.

The Schindler family, also bothered by repeated arrests and heightened anger outside the hospice, pleaded with supporters to spend Easter with their families. They had little success; five people were arrested and chants of "Give Terri water!" echoed for much of the day.

Extra police officers blocked the road in front of Schiavo's hospice and Pinellas County school officials said an elementary school next to the hospice would be closed yesterday.

At least two more state-filed appeals are pending, but those challenges are before the state 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has rebuffed Gov Bush's previous efforts in the case. Bush's office and the court clerk said it was unclear when the appeals judges would rule.

Doctors have said Schiavo, aged 41, would probably die within a week or two once the feeding tube which kept her alive for 15 years was disconnected.

She relied on the tube since suffering catastrophic brain damage when her heart stopped beating and oxygen was cut off to her brain.

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