Michael Schiavo's Dilemma

ByABC News
March 17, 2005, 2:19 PM

March 18, 2005 — -- The man in the middle of a nationwide media firestorm seemed destined to lead a simple, typically American life.

Michael Schiavo is the product of a middle-class upbringing in Levittown, Pa., a small city near Philadelphia. He was born in April 1963, the youngest of Bill and Clara Schiavo's five sons.

As a youth, Michael attended Lutheran church services on Sundays. He followed his older brothers to summer Bible camp. He grew into a tall, good-looking young man, and was a popular athlete at Levittown's Woodrow Wilson High School.

It was at Bucks County Community College that Michael Schiavo met the woman who would change his life.

Theresa Marie Schindler, known to her friends as Terri, was a quiet young woman who loved animals. The two met in 1982 and were married two years later.

The couple left their Pennsylvania home in 1986 and moved to St. Petersburg, a small city on the Gulf coast of Florida popular with retirees. Terri's parents owned a condominium there that the Schiavos occupied.

Michael began working as a restaurant manager, and Terri took a job as an insurance clerk for Prudential. It is at this point in their lives together that accounts of the couple's marriage begin to differ.

While Michael and his family describe the marriage as a happy one, Terri's parents, who moved to Florida about the same time, have referred to Michael and Terri's relationship as argumentative.

Bob and Mary Schindler have also depicted Michael as a controlling and verbally abusive husband. The couple never had any children.

In February 1990, Terri was rushed to the hospital after suffering a heart attack that rendered her unconscious. She was 26 at the time.

The heart attack was apparently caused by a potassium imbalance, possibly associated with an eating disorder -- Michael and others have described Terri as bulimic.

When doctors determined that Terri had entered a persistent vegetative state, Michael flew Terri to California for experimental surgical treatments, sleeping on a cot in her hospital room.