Tuesday, October 21, 2003

What if it Were Your Wife, Jeb?

Florida Gov. Bush Signs Feeding Tube Law

A severly brain-damaged Florida woman has been in a vegetative coma for the past thirteen years. Her parents want to keep her alive. Her husband petitioned a Florida Circuit Court, requesting that her feeding tube be removed. Last week, his request was granted. For the past six days, the woman has received no food or water. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case and the U.S. District Court has declined to hear it citing lack of jurisdiction.

Today, the Florida Legislature passed a bill ordering that the woman's feeding tube be re-inserted. Immediately, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed the bill into law. The woman will be kept alive.

When I first read this article, I was scathingly angry. Now I just feel achingly sad : for the woman, for her husband, for all of us.

When I was five years old, my grandmother had a massive heart attack. She was dead when the paramedics arrived, but they were able to revive her. She spent the next two years in a coma. She lost roughly a third of her body weight and developed bed sores. Her muscles atrophied, her hands gnarled, and she became almost, but not entirely, blind. My mom says that my grandmother seemed to perceive shapes: her eyes sometimes tracked whomever was in the room. On the two occasions my brother and I were allowed to see her briefly, her eyes welled with tears.

However, she was able to breathe on her own, without a respirator. My grandfather had no option: there was no plug to pull. He watched his beloved, intelligent, boisterously creative wife become slowly and nightmarishly unrecognizable.

My mother visited her nearly everday, telling her stories of my brother and me. Massaging her hands. My brother and I would plan the party we would throw when "Yiayia" woke up: I don't remember the details, but I know that we insisted there should be cake and balloons.

In September 1974, my grandmother had a second heart attack. Mercifully, she died.

Jeb, you can't know the horror you've just inflicted on this woman and her husband.

I have to stop now.

No comments: