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Post Script: Spirited Mother Spent Last Years Trapped in Vegetative State

October 31, 2006

By Bill Sizemore, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Oct. 31–VIRGINIA BEACH — Mary Buckley, a vivacious mother of four sons and the spark plug for countless family outings and neighborhood barbecues, spent the last 2-1/2 years of her life in a cruel medical limbo.

It was as if she was just an empty body, her family and friends said. Her soul, her spirit — whatever it was that made her a treasured soul mate, confidante and the life of every party — was gone.

On Oct. 23, her body gave up, too.

Buckley, 47, who died peacefully in her sleep at Sentara Nursing Center, suffered massive brain damage in an anesthesia accident in April 2004 at Sentara Bayside Hospital, where she had gone for a routine bunion operation.

Her husband, Matt, sued the anesthesiologist and won a substantial but undisclosed settlement.

Mary Buckley was profiled in The Virginian-Pilot in August 2005. The brain damage had left her helpless in a nursing-home bed, hooked up to a feeding tube, breathing tube, catheter and stomach pump, her eyes locked in a fixed stare. Her condition was comparable to that of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who died last year after a widely publicized court battle over the removal of her feeding tube.

Matt Buckley said he would never order his wife’s feeding tube removed; it would be too cruel. But months ago, as her condition grew increasingly hopeless, he signed a “do not treat, do not resuscitate” order — instructing doctors not to treat her for any medical complications. Last month, doctors told him her organs were starting to shut down.

“I write this with deep, deep sadness and sorrow,” he began in an e-mail announcing her death to far-flung family and friends. “… But I also have an incredible sense of relief for not only our girl but for the boys and all of us. Mary’s soul is now where it should have been 31 months ago.”

Matt Buckley asked that memorial donations be sent to the Mary Buckley Foundation, a nonprofit corporation he has set up to finance brain-damage research and support for families. The address is 3901 Coverdale Circle, Virginia Beach, VA 23452.

He ended the e-mail with the same closing he has used for all his updates throughout the family’s long ordeal:

“Keep the Faith and EXPECT MIRACLES!”

— Reach Bill Sizemore at (757)446-2276 or bill.sizemore@pilotonline.com.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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