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Schindler family resolute in fight for Terri's life


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Terri Schiavo's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, and brother Bobby Schindler at the hospice Thursday.
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Terri Schiavo

PINELLAS PARK, Florida (CNN) -- Although Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed contrary to their wishes seven days ago, members of her family said late Thursday they will continue fighting for her life despite continuing setbacks and mounting odds against them.

"We don't want to give up on Terri," her brother, Bobby Schindler, told CNN. "She hasn't given up on us all these years, and we're certainly not going to give up on her.

"Things don't look too good right now, but there's always a voice inside saying something could happen any second now to get my sister out of this mess."

Schiavo, 41, remained in a Florida hospice Friday as her family continued to plead with courts to reinsert her feeding tube. She collapsed in 1990 after suffering heart failure and has been in what courts have called a persistent vegetative state ever since.

Schindler's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have been involved in a legal tug-of-war with Schiavo's husband, Michael, over her fate for years. Courts have repeatedly sided with Michael Schiavo, who maintains his wife would not want to be kept alive artificially. The Schindlers maintain she could get better with intense therapy.

This week was not the first time Schiavo's feeding tube has been disconnected, but previously the family has been successful in their efforts to get it reinserted.

"It happened a year and a half ago," said Schiavo's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo. "We thought it was the end then, and look what happened. We just hope that Terri can hang on, and we'll keep praying."

Schindler said the most difficult part of his family's ordeal is "having to watch my parents go through simply wanting to care for their child and not being able to."

"I mean, 15 years now, particularly these last 13 years, they just simply want to bring their child home and take care of her, make her part of the family again, and they're being told that they can't. It's something that I think a lot of people just can't understand."

"That's been the difficult part, not only seeing Terri abandoned and warehoused this period of time, but also having to see my parents go through the struggle just to take care of their child."

Asked about the years she has spent without her sister, Vitadamo said, "We really haven't been without Terri. Terri is a part of me and my life, and she always will be. I don't feel like I've ever been without her."

The two visited with their sister earlier Thursday.

"She looks -- honestly, she looks like she is in a concentration camp," Vitadamo said. "She's beginning to hollow out. It's awful. It's awful to have to sit back and watch this process happen to anybody. We live in America. I can't even believe I'm sitting here discussing this. It's sick."

Schindler said part of him wants to be with Schiavo, but "the other part of me just wants to get out of the room as fast as I can. It's absolutely horrific to know someone's being starved to death, especially a family member."

But despite the emotional toll the fight has taken on her family, Vitadamo said she does not regret it.

"I've watched my parents age incredibly, in a sad way, over the past several years. But you know what, I'd do it all over again. I would do whatever I could do to fight for her. She can't do it herself, and we're all that she has, and we love her. I wouldn't think twice."

And the family is holding fast to their faith.

"God has a purpose for my sister's life," Schindler said. "Whatever happens, we know that God's ultimately going to make the final decision."


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