Who knew? Tom Delay, of thuggish Texas politican fame, has had his own personal tragic story regarding a case similar to Terri Schiavo’s – his father’s.
From The Houston Chronicle:
When his father was left in a coma, he agreed to forgo any heroic efforts
By WALTER F. ROCHE JR. and SAM HOWE VERHOVEK
Los Angeles Times
CANYON LAKE – A family tragedy unfolding in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal — without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the raging debate outside Terri Schiavo’s Florida hospice.
The patient then was a 65-year-old drilling contractor, badly injured in a freak accident. Among the family standing vigil at Brooke Army Medical Center was a grieving junior congressman — U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.
More than 16 years ago, far from the political passions that have defined the Schiavo controversy, the DeLay family endured its own wrenching end-of-life crisis. The man in a coma, kept alive by intravenous lines and a ventilator, was DeLay’s father, Charles Ray DeLay.
Then, freshly re-elected to a third term in the House, DeLay waited all but helpless for the verdict of doctors.
Today, as House majority leader, DeLay has teamed with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to champion political intervention in the Schiavo case. He pushed emergency legislation through Congress to shift the legal case from Florida state courts to the federal judiciary.
And he is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo’s husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls “an act of barbarism” in removing the tube.
In 1988, however, there was no such rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.
“There was no point to even really talking about it,” recalled Maxine DeLay, the congressman’s 81-year-old mother. “There was no way he (Charles) wanted to live like that.”
Doctors advised that he would “basically be a vegetable,” said the congressman’s aunt, JoAnne DeLay.
When the man’s kidneys failed, the DeLay family decided against connecting him to a dialysis machine.
On Dec. 14, 1988, the senior DeLay “expired with his family in attendance.”
“The situation faced by the congressman’s family was entirely different than Terri Schiavo’s,” said a spokesman for DeLay, who declined requests for an interview.
However, there were these similarities: Both stricken patients were severely brain damaged. Both were incapable of surviving without continuing medical assistance. Both were said to have expressed a desire to be spared life sustained by machine. And neither left a living will.
This previously unpublished account of the majority leader’s brush with life-ending decisions was assembled from court files, medical records and interviews with family members.
It was a pleasant late afternoon in the Texas Hill Country on Nov. 17, 1988.
At the home of Charles and Maxine DeLay, set on a limestone bluff of cedars and live oaks above Turkey Cove, it also was a moment of triumph.
Charles and his brother, Jerry DeLay, two avid tinkerers, had just finished work on a new backyard tram to carry passengers from the house down a 200-foot slope to Canyon Lake.
The two men called for their wives to hop aboard. Charles pushed the button and the maiden run began. Within seconds a horrific screeching noise echoed across the still lake, “a sickening sound,” said a neighbor. The tram was in trouble.
Maxine, seated up front in the four-passenger trolley, said her husband repeatedly tried to engage the emergency brake but the rail car kept picking up speed. Moments later, it jumped the track and slammed into a tree, scattering passengers and twisted debris in all directions.
Karl Braddick, now 86, the DeLays’ neighbor at the time and a family friend, called for emergency help. Jerry’s wife, JoAnne, suffered broken bones and a shattered elbow. Charles, hurled head-first into a tree, clearly was in serious condition.
“He was all but gone,” Braddick said.
But Charles DeLay hung on in the ambulance to the New Braunfels hospital 15 miles away. He was airlifted to the medical center at Fort Sam Houston with multiple injuries, including broken ribs and a brain hemorrhage.
Tom DeLay flew to his father’s bedside, where, along with his two brothers and a sister, they joined Maxine.
Over a period of days, doctors conducted scans of his head, face, neck and abdomen. They checked for lung damage, performing a bronchoscopy and later a tracheotomy to assist his breathing. But the procedures could not prevent steady deterioration.
Then infections set in, and his organs began to fail. The family and physicians confronted the dreaded choice so many other Americans have faced: to make heroic efforts or to let the end come.
The preliminary decision to withhold dialysis and other treatments fell to Maxine, son Randall and daughter Tena — and, his mother said, “Tom went along.”
Today, Maxine DeLay lives in a Houston senior citizen residence. She acknowledges questions that compare her family’s decision in 1988 to the Schiavo conflict.
Like her son, she believes there might be hope for Terri Schiavo’s recovery. That’s what makes her family’s experience different, she says. Charles had no hope.
“There was no chance he was ever coming back,” she said.
But Terri Schiavo’s situation is different, Delay’s rep says, while turning down requests for interviews with Delay regarding this newfound information.
How? I see no differences, myself.