(KILLEEN, Texas) — A Texas father whose hospitalized son is fighting for his life obtained an order of temporary guardianship Thursday morning, granting him the legal authority to make all decisions regarding the son’s life support.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Terry Mace, 43, collapsed of a heart attack while talking to a friend at his home in Killeen, Texas, March 6. He was hospitalized shortly afterward and was initially unresponsive, Mace’s father’s attorney, Stephen Casey, said. Mace has been at the center of a legal battle between his father, Terry Mace Sr., who is fighting to keep him on life support, and his estranged wife, who has attempted to terminate it.
“[Terry Mace Sr.] is thrilled, he is absolutely thrilled,” the father’s attorney, Stephan Casey, told ABC News Thursday regarding the decision. “He will be able to make all decisions regarding life support. We have his father who will act in his best interests and give him an opportunity to recover.”
Mace’s father flew to Texas from Pennsylvania to be with his son a few days after he was hospitalized. Mace’s estranged wife arrived in Texas from Colorado March 18, and the dispute began shortly thereafter, Casey said.
“Less than 48 hours after she arrived, she had entered a ‘do not resuscitate’ order into the medical records, which was not revealed to family members,” Casey said. On the 22nd, unbeknownst to Mace’s parents, she told the hospital to remove all nutrition and hydration tubes.
Mace became more responsive and began to breathe on his own after the tubes were removed, Casey said. Disturbed that they had been removed in the first place, Mace’s father reached out to the Texas Center for Defense of Life to file an emergency application for guardianship and a temporary restraining order against Yvonne Mace, which a Williamson County judged granted Thursday morning. Mace’s feeding and hydration tubes were put back in place, Casey said.
Mace and his wife have been separated for nearly five years and are in the midst of divorce proceedings, according to Casey. In the absence of a medical power of attorney, Casey said, Texas provisions allowed for Mace’s estranged wife to make all life-support decisions, which prompted Mace’s father to seek temporary guardianship.
“If he dies and they are still married, she might get some money from him,” Casey said. “He had a will out. She hasn’t been taken out of it. There are just some questions about what is going to happen to his funds. There is obviously a problem.”
Mace and his estranged wife have three daughters, ages 16, 19, and 21. ABC News has been unable to reach Yvonne Mace directly for comment, but she posted this message on her Facebook page:
“I am looking for prayers. Terry Mace (my husband) is in the ICU I have taken him off life support. He has no upper brain function only his brain stem is alive. His parents have removed my rights and seized his estate. Please pray for a release of his spirit so he can be at peace.”
Mace is listed in critical condition at Seton Medical Center Williamson. He has become increasingly responsive in the past week, Casey said. “His eyes are open, he is responsive to sound, and pain, he grimaces. It’s not as if you go in there and nothing is happening,” Casey said. “He is sliding his head up and his eyes are opening.”
Casey says the order of temporary guardianship lasts for 60 days, and that he plans to seek permanent guardianship within that period. He says Mace’s parents are coping the best they can.
“They have been very hopeful and they are very relieved today because of what happened,” Casey said. “Now Terry has a chance to live.”
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Eric Levenson, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN
AJ Willingham, CNN