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Terri Schiavo's life, death sparked national debate


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President Bush reacts to Terri Schiavo's death.

Brother of Michael Schiavo's fiancee react's to Terri Schiavo's death.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talks about Terri Schiavo's death.
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Terri Schiavo

(CNN) -- The death of Terri Schindler Schiavo came 15 years after she suffered severe brain damage that left her fate up to others, eventually leading to a legal battle and a national discussion on issues of life and death.

Schiavo, 41, died 13 days after doctors removed the feeding tube that had kept her alive. (Full story)

Her relatives and friends never reached a consensus on whether the Florida resident would have wanted to linger for so long in what doctors called a persistent vegetative state. However, all who knew her agree the once-bashful woman would have shunned the litigation-spawned spotlight.

Before Schiavo's death, her best friend in high school, Diane Meyer, told The Miami Herald that Schiavo would have asked, " 'All this for me?' Terri never dreamed of saving the world, whether through her living or through her death," Meyer told the Florida newspaper. "She just wanted to be your common, everyday, happy woman."

She started dreaming of that ordinary life as a chubby child growing up in Pennsylvania.

Born Theresa Marie Schindler, she was the oldest of Robert and Mary Schindler's three children. Being overweight made Schiavo a bit reclusive. Her 5-foot-3-inch frame carried 200 pounds at one point, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2003.

Her mother told The Associated Press that her firstborn would spend hour after hour in her bedroom arranging and rearranging more than 100 stuffed animals.

Schiavo's love for animals was apparent, the Herald reported, when Bucky, the family's yellow Labrador collapsed from old age in the driveway. She gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and after his death put his picture on her key chain.

The animal lover was also a romantic, her friends said.

Sue Pickwell, another of Schiavo's friends, told the AP that she and Schiavo were devoted fans of "Starsky and Hutch" star Paul Michael Glaser, and they wrote him hundreds of letters.

As a teen, Schiavo listened to John Denver tunes and soaked up Danielle Steele romances, Meyer told the AP. The two girls saw "An Officer and a Gentlemen" four times in one day and spent their free time window-shopping in bridal shops and planning the perfect wedding.

Schiavo slimmed down before heading to Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania. That's where the 19-year-old freshman met her future husband, Michael Schiavo.

Michael Schiavo "was the first guy who ever, ever paid any attention to her," Mary Schindler told the AP during the fall of 2003. The Miami Herald reported that the couple dated almost two years before marrying in 1984 in her childhood church.

Two years later, the Schiavos moved to Florida. Michael managed restaurants, and Terri took a job as a clerk for an insurance agency, the AP reported.

In February 1990, just a few months after her fifth wedding anniversary, Terri Schiavo, then 26, collapsed from what doctors have said was a potassium imbalance. Her heart stopped, and her brain did not receive oxygen for about five minutes.

Although suffering from severe brain damage, Terri Schiavo could breathe on her own. But she never recovered from that oxygen deprivation and remained dependent on a feeding tube for nutrition and hydration.

Schiavo's feeding tube was first removed on a court order on October 15, 2003, against her parents' wishes. The tube was reinserted six days later after the Florida Legislature passed a law giving Florida Gov. Jeb Bush the authority to stay the court order. The law was later ruled unconstitutional.

The feeding tube was removed a second time on March 18, 2005. She died despite multiple legal efforts by her parents to reinsert the tube.


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