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A Disabled Journalist Talks To Journalists About Terri Schiavo


DATE: Here and Now
TO: Press People Who Are Missing The Boat On Who Cares About Terri's Schiavo's Fate
FROM: America's Largest Minority - The Disabled and Elder Community
SUBJECT: The Matter of Terri Schiavo Schindler

Please talk to women with disabilities who have been in Terri's position.
Listen to what it was like when the husbands involved blocked all potential help.
Meet with those ex-wives with disabilities who got that help after divorce.
Many have become writers like yourselves.
I am one.

And I have been reading your work for years. I learned how to do my job by watching you do yours. Now I need to return the favor.

As a female journalist with disabilities I truly believed you understood the frailty of women's lives in regard to their roles as traditional caregivers. I thought you knew Terri's state is the murder-suicide capital of the country.

Each of those Floridian situations usually comes down to a woman with disabilities who used to do the bulk of the family care-giving but can't do that any more. The most affected family member does not then rise to the challenge of returning the years long favor of the most basic care.

Then the "lost" spouse still wanting the same level of care (without the additional personal investment of learning new ways to be a family) kills the female caregiver now needing that same care. Many times the formerly cared for spouses kill themselves, too.

In Terri Schiavo's case, her husband Michael is choosing to live. But she is in danger of dying because she now needs "wifely" care herself.

If she could still do all those things women do to get their families through the day, her name would not even be in the news. We are reading about her because she is a woman who got moved by life events from the hearth of caring to the fire of not being cared about enough.

I ask as a faithful reader of you all that consideration be given the feminist implications of trying to kill Terri for not being able to do her "duties" anymore because of the onset of disability.

I ask that newspaper staffs consider the implications of luring Terri and her family down as typical Florida immigrants and then turning on most of them as soon as a single member of their kin group becomes disabled.

I ask that editorial boards talk to women who have survived Terri's experience and to really, really hear what it is like for her now.

I beg you to watch how simple communication for her could be -- a used file folder and marker could give Terri voice.

With those two items we can make a duplicate of the talking board that saved two lives -- mine and my son's. I can demonstrate with them communication augmentation costing less than a dollar that is currently in use at medical and rehabilitation sites everywhere.

Speak with me and my son. Let us show you how old office supplies can be used to create the means to know Terri's thoughts. Let us share as the rational, loving people how to help caregivers not be thrown away when they themselves become disabled enough to need that same help.

It is very wrong to assume that there is only religious motivation in saving Terri.

There are more disabled people in the United States than there are people in Canada. As goes Terri, so goes us. The odds are very good so goes YOU.

Stopping life for stepping on the other side of that line labeled "Too Disabled To Life" is in reality drawing a benchmark in the sand that will shift with every whim and wind.

Do we want to promote and live in a country where - at any moment due to genetics, accident or illness -- any one of us could look down at Florida's cherished beach sand and find life moved us to the Michael Schiavo side of the line?

Do we want our money laden and courted Florida residents and tourists worrying that disability happening here will cause the medical tide to wash them away instead of float them?

Rus Cooper-Dowda

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