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Mom pleads to keep girl, declared brain dead, on life support

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:28 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2013

OAKLAND, Calif. >> 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.

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kainalu wrote:
So sad. I dare not judge the mom.
on December 22,2013 | 06:58AM
Grimbold wrote:
Yeah, forgive her, she may have absolutely no understanding of science and also believe in witchcraft like Zuma, the Pres of South Africa. And by the way, we the dumb taxpayers pay for the huge medical expenses anyway .
on December 22,2013 | 07:30AM
momomama wrote:
As a taxpayer, I'd rather gift this heartbroken mother with more time with her daughter, compared to the other wastes we endure.
on December 22,2013 | 11:27AM
1local wrote:
can't wait till obamacare gets involved...
on December 22,2013 | 09:40AM
primowarrior wrote:
This mother is suffering and desperately trying to hold on to a child she loves. I pray that she eventually finds peace.
on December 22,2013 | 09:33AM
serious wrote:
This one which was s dimple operation and the one a couple of days ago, a simple dental procedure, makes one wonder. Every profession needs oversight---and not from their peers like the law profession.
on December 22,2013 | 09:46AM
tutulois wrote:
This is beyond sad. A parent has every right to be in denial at a time like this. Only time will tell, but if this child is truly brain dead, she will never again be the girl they knew and loved.
on December 22,2013 | 10:33AM
aomohoa wrote:
I feel this mothers pain. It is so hard to let go. Hopefully someone she trusts help her accept the situation the best she can.
on December 22,2013 | 01:46PM
ambulanceguy wrote:
I don't see any problem keeping the daughter breathing with a beating heart, so long as family provides the money to do so. The mother may be distraught and clueless, but the tragedy cannot be reversed. If the mother wants to do the best thing for her daughter's memory, the only course of action would be to donate all viable organs so that others might have a new chance at life. They would carry the debt to the unfortunate girl for all of their lifetimes.
on December 22,2013 | 04:29PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
This is truly sad. It'd be nice to know what caused this tragedy. Like the recent dental fiasco, the procedure Jahi underwent was not brain surgery. I don't judge Mom either.
on December 22,2013 | 06:59PM
MexMe wrote:
It's so easy for all of us to think of the right course of actions because this is not our daughter. The picture of the young girl is vibrant and lovely. My heart breaks for this woman and every fiber of my being hopes that she is right and the doctors are wrong.
on December 22,2013 | 07:02PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
A sad situation indeed, I will pray for her family. Considering the circumstances I would think the hospital would be less adversarial. They're going to get sued for sure, sounds like she may have had incompetent doctors.
on December 22,2013 | 08:29PM
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