Former Nurse Says "Terri was not completely out of it"


WLKY | March 31, 2005

LOUISVILLE -- Long before the Terri Schiavo case became national news, a nurse who now lives in Louisville had a hand in her care.

About 10 years ago, Mary Rucker worked for a clinic where Schiavo received care, WLKY NewsChannel 32's Andy Alcock reported exclusively Thursday.

"My heart's broken because I feel like this is the day that law has overruled humanity," Rucker said.

Well before Schiavo's death Thursday, the case raised questions about quality of life, and what should or should not be done to sustain it. Schiavo was unable to speak or take care of herself for years due to brain damage possibly brought on by an eating disorder.

Rucker first saw Schiavo in a St. Petersburg, Fla., nursing home, Alcock reported.

"I was in the room with her," Rucker said. "I've held her hand. I was in the room with her husband."

Rucker added that it's hard to say whether Schiavo was able to understand what was going on around her in her final years.

"I don't know who's to say at that point (that Schiavo) doesn't know what you're hearing or saying," Rucker said. "I think only God would have that answer. But she did follow me with her eyes. She would look at me as I was talking to her with her eyes."

That last statement is what led Rucker to one conclusion.

"She was not completely out of it," she said.

Still, by court order, Schiavo's feeding tube was removed. And after numerous attempts by her parents to overturn that order, Schiavo died 13 days later. Rucker said she disagrees with the court's decision, Alcock reported. She compared Schiavo to her own mother-in-law, who died of cancer. A loved one brought her soup just days before she died.

"She would say, 'Oh, that's so good,'" Rucker said. "Even though I would sit there and watch the soup go through her system into a draining bag."

Rucker said the Schiavo case has taught us how important it is for people to let their loved ones know their wishes for treatment in cases where you can't take part in the decision.

"Understand what a living will is, understand who has the rights to you if something would happen, even though your loving mother cries and says my daughter is my life," Rucker said. "That meant nothing -- nothing at all. Her husband overruled it."

Due to privacy laws, Rucker said she can't get into details about the kind of treatment she provided

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