Mom pleads to keep California girl on life support

Jahi McMath, 13, had a tonsillectomy to correct a form of sleep apnea. After complications, "she is 100% brain damaged. Medically dead," her uncle says. (Omari Sealey)
Jahi McMath (Omari Sealey)
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Updated: 12/22/2013 2:12 am

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A California woman says she believes her 13-year-old daughter is alive despite a declaration that complications from a tonsillectomy left her brain dead.

The mother of Jahi McMath pleaded for prayers and time to keep her daughter on a ventilator past Monday, when a temporary restraining order barring a hospital from disconnecting life support expires.

"Despite what they say, she is alive. I can touch her, she is warm. She responds to my touch," Nailah Winkfield wrote Saturday.

"Given time I know (God) will spark her brain awake," she wrote in the open letter.

Children's Hospital of Oakland's responded in a statement that while it sympathizes with Winkfield's wishes, "it would be unfair to give false hope that Jahi will come back to life."

Winkfield said her daughter bled profusely and went into cardiac arrest after undergoing a "simple procedure" to remove her tonsil to help with her sleep apnea.

Jahi was declared brain dead on Dec. 12.

The hospital statement contends the surgery was complicated, and that it was committed to fully investigating what caused "this catastrophic outcome."

A judge ruled Friday to keep Jahi on a ventilator and continue giving her intravenous fluids through Monday, when a court-approved neurologist will examine the girl for any signs of brain activity.

The family's attorney, Christopher Dolan, told Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo the family wanted independent tests because they do not believe the hospital's physicians are sufficiently independent.

The hospital said in documents presented to the court Friday that a staff neurologist and Jahi's attending physician conducted separated exams, both of which determined that Jahi's entire brain, including her brain stem, stopped functioning.

"There is absolutely no medical possibility that (Jahi's) condition is reversible or that she will someday recover from death," declarations from the doctors said. "Thus, there is no medical justification to provide any further medical treatment whatsoever to (her)."

Hospitals do a barrage of sophisticated tests to determine brain death, said Dr. Cristobal Barrios, an associate professor and a trauma and critical care surgeon at the University of California, Irvine. He is not involved in Jahi's care and spoke about general hospital protocols.

Generally, two teams of specialists must run the tests and determine independently that the patient is brain dead, he said. At UC Irvine, those evaluations must take place 12 hours apart if the patient is a child.


Associated Press writer Gillian Flaccus in Santa Ana contributed to this report.


©2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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renojim - 12/22/2013 6:51 PM
0 Votes
I don't need you to respond thank you! I simply stated that you are a racist idiot. Your self serving "witty" come backs are only for your inflated view of your internet trolling self. Every one is the man behind a computer screen typing on a keyboard. You probably aren't even a cop, just another thing try to make you sound bigger than you are. Let me guess, you are probaby 5'8 with small feet.

retired cop - 12/22/2013 4:48 PM
0 Votes
renojim: Still writing semi-literate nonsense, I see! Well, please be advised that I'll not respond to any more of your tripe. I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with someone as lacking in weaponry as you obviously are. Good day.

renojim - 12/22/2013 4:29 PM
0 Votes
Sure you would wink wink. The picture is of a african american girl, and your first ignorant assumption is they are on public assistance. They couldn't possibly have insurance could they? As I said, glad you are retired!!

retired cop - 12/22/2013 3:44 PM
0 Votes
renojim: 1st, might I suggest that you obtain a bit of education, so you can construct a proper, logical paragraph, instead of inflicting your semi-literacy upon the public? Secondly, how can you POSSIBLY find racism in ANYTHING I wrote? I would feel the same regardless of the ethnicity of the individuals involved!

renojim - 12/22/2013 2:35 PM
0 Votes
EAD retired cop, thank god your retired, don't need a jaded racist on the force and thats for sure!! Ulterior motives, yeah right, how about a mother clinging to every hope her daughter might survive. This wasn't expected, she didn't have a disease or cancer. You're a disgrace sir, please remove cop from your name as you give them a bad rap!!!

Speed - 12/22/2013 1:10 PM
0 Votes
When my younger sister suffered a subdural hematoma,over the span of a few hours she went from alive and communicative to unconscious. I asked the surgeon who operated on her,"What are the chances she'll wake up and be able to even recognize and respond to people?" If she could do even that much,I felt she was string enough to improve from there. But the surgeon said,"We did EVERYTHING we could do,but the damage to her brain was already too great when we started. I'm not going to lead you on-her chances are very small that she'll ever be more that what we see now." I made the hardest decision of my life,and told them to take her off life support. We ALL wanted to give her the chance to improve,but when her own surgeon says SHE thinks it's over,it's time to accept it and "cut your losses". I'm still enormously grateful to all who helped in her transport,care and the surgery that offered me a chance to travel 300 miles to be at her side when she passed. Even though I still believe miracles can happen,I also believe a miracle must benefit more than one person and one family,group of friends and extended family,to be worthy of God's favor. As others have said,it helps nobody to keep this girl on life support;there are SO many others she could help with organ,eye,bone,marrow and other donations,and there's no more noble sacrifice to make. It's FAR better to be able to see her as helping many others to live than to remember visiting her in the hospital for years only to see her age and cost the family more money,time,joy and honor. My deepest condolences for your loss,I hope you'll resolve to make her death give life to others. You know in your heart she'd have wanted that.

retired cop - 12/22/2013 11:32 AM
0 Votes
Yes, tonysam, indeed I have! The difference between my family and this one, plus their attorneys, is that we accepted and dealt with the situation, as opposed to clinging to delusion and milking the public's sympathies, in all probability for self-serving and ulterior motives!

tonysam - 12/22/2013 10:32 AM
1 Vote
What gives you the right to judge? Have you ever been around people who have had severe disabilities and may appear to be "vegetative"? I guess not. I despise eugenics and the people who peddle it.

Sandwulf - 12/22/2013 8:48 AM
0 Votes
It's horrible what happened to this child. Keeping her on life support I believe unless they plan to donate her organs to other kids. Which would be a great idea. At least it could give some hope knowing that parts of this girl saved some other lives. A little bit of what she was would live in these kids. I couldn't imagine the shock of losing your baby that was fine and healthy one moment, then fighting for her life the next! Her spirit will live on in the family that loved her, and she could give a 2nd chance to children that have a chance to live if you decide to do that. God bless I am so sorry for your loss!

retired cop - 12/22/2013 7:43 AM
0 Votes
What makes this foolish woman and her relatives think they know more than do the doctors in this case? To sustain the girl on life support is nothing more than a severe drain on taxpayer funds, because you can bet that the family isn't footing the bill for this! If Mom wants to do the right thing, listen to the doctors, donate her daughter's organs so that other might live, and let her daughter rest in peace!

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