Home | News | Regional | Jahi McMath case: Family of girl, 13, declared brain-dead from tonsil surgery complications refuse to remove her from life support

Jahi McMath case: Family of girl, 13, declared brain-dead from tonsil surgery complications refuse to remove her from life support

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  • Jahi McMath, 13, went to have her tonsils and adenoids out at Oakland Children's Hospital, California last week
  • Afterwards she was bleeding from the nose and mouth, suffered cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead
  • Hospital told her heartbroken family that they will switch off her life support as she has been declared legally dead
  • Girl's mother and uncle served hospital with cease and desist letter, leading to announcement Tuesday that Jahi will remain on ventilator
  • Relatives are convinced that prayers will help McMath wake up
  • Experts say no one has ever recovered from being brain dead

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 02:09 EST, 18 December 2013 | UPDATED: 02:25 EST, 18 December 2013

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The family of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain dead last week, three days after undergoing a routine tonsillectomy to cure her sleep apnea, are determined to keep her on life support indefinitely against the hospital's wishes.

Speaking to CNN's Piers Morgan Tuesday night, Nailah Winkfield, the mother of Jahi McMath, said she believed her daughter could still wake up.

'I don't want to take my daughter off life support because I love my child,' an emotional Miss Winkfield said. 'When I walked her into that hospital, she was perfectly fine, there was nothing wrong with her. She had no health problems.'

Loss: Jahi McMath, 13, suffered cardiac arrest after having her tonsils out and has been declared brain dead. The hospital will now switch off her life support, even though her family does not want to

Loss: Jahi McMath, 13, suffered cardiac arrest after having her tonsils out and has been declared brain dead. The hospital will now switch off her life support, even though her family does not want to

The mother recounted how when Jahi emerged from surgery to remove her tonsils at Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland lastTuesday, the 13-year-old said her throat was hurting and she wanted a Popsicle. 

'I don't want her off life support because I really feel like she can wake up,' Nailah Winkfield told Morgan. 'I feel like it's just been a rough week for her and, if they just give her some more time, then she'll be able to wake up.'

Jahi's family have since presented the hospital with a cease and desist letter through their attorney, Christopher Dolan, to prevent the teen from being taken off the ventilator.

'Our faith is so strong that we don't even think about the possibility of death,' said Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey. 'We believe with all the prayers from everyone around the world and the prayers with our family that she will wake up, that she will heal completely.'

This afternoon, the 13-year-old girl's family and their attorney declared that the hospital informed them that Jahi would be kept on life support indefinitely, KTVU reported.

'The hospital has now backed off from the efforts to remove live support,' said Dolan.

The family said if the hospital moves to switch off Jahi's life support again, they will take legal action to try to get a court injunction.

'We're not on doctor's time anymore we're on god's time, providing us more time to get together and pray,' said Sealey.

However, experts told the station that no one has ever recovered from being brain dead, and that hospital officials are merely acting out of compassion by keeping the legally dead girl on life support.

The girl's family have created a Facebook page called 'Keep Jahi Mcmath on life support,' which so far has drawn over 2,900 'likes.'

Oakland coroner's office told CNN that Jahi's death was reported to the agency Thursday. Under California state law, pathologists are required to examine the body as soon as possible and determine the cause and manner of death.

United front: Nailah Winkfield (center), Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey (far left) and their attorney said they wanted to hospital to keep the girl on the ventilator indefinitely

United front: Nailah Winkfield (center), Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey (far left) and their attorney said they wanted to hospital to keep the girl on the ventilator indefinitely

In Jahi's case, the fear is that the longer her body remains on life support, healing, the more difficult it would be to uncover what went wrong during the surgery, according to the official.

However, Mr Dolan, the family's attorney said that Jahi is a person, not evidence, adding that it is a 'ruse' on the part of the hospital to try and get the girl off the ventilator under the guise of an investigation into her death.

California law states that two doctors must declare a patient brain dead at least three hours apart.

Before the doctors gave their decision to the family, Jahi's heartbroken mother said she had felt that the hospital was pressuring her into switching off her daughter's life support so that they could re-use the bed.

'They just have a social worker follow me around all day long asking me "Do you have any other family that needs to see her?" like trying to put a rush on it,' Winkfield told ABC 7, breaking down.

Chatman had added to the Oakland Tribune that as long as her daughter's heart was beating, they wanted to keep her in the hospital, even if it means spending Christmas in there. 

'As long as she has a pulse, we want her on life support,' Sealey said. 'We want her to come home for Christmas. We want to give her presents. We want a chance for a Christmas miracle.'

Jahi
Apprehensive: Jahi McMath was nervous about undergoing surgery but her mother assured her she'd be fine

Apprehensive: Jahi was nervous about undergoing surgery but her mother assured her she'd be fine. As she was recovering, she was bleeding from the mouth and nose and suffered cardiac arrest

Beloved: Jahi's mother Nailah Winkfield said they had wanted to keep her on life support for Christmas

Beloved: Jahi's mother Nailah Winkfield said they had wanted to keep her on life support for Christmas

The tragedy unfolded after Jahi went to the hospital for the routine surgery meant to help with her weight gain, incontinence, short attention span and sleep apnea - even though she did not want to.

Her uncle said she had told her mother 'something bad is going to happen to me'.

The child's mother and grandmother Sandra Chatman say hospital staff failed to provide adequate care and attention to the clearly ailing patient.

She underwent the surgery but as she was recovering she started to bleed profusely from her nose and mouth.

'My daughter had actual clots sliding out of her mouth and they gave me a cup and said, "Here, catch them with the cup so we can measure them,"' Winkfield told ABC 7.

Chatman, herself a surgical nurse, said nursing staff did not react until she began screaming for help.

'I was the last one to see Jahi,' said Chatman. 'I said, "Somebody help my baby, please!" And they came in and starting working on her. The next thing I know, the doctor said, "Oh no, she doesn't have a heart rate anymore."'

Investigation: Oakland Children's Hospital said it will investigate what happened after the surgery. As Jahi has been declared legally dead, she will be taken off life support

Investigation: Oakland Children's Hospital said it will investigate what happened after the surgery. As Jahi has been declared legally dead, she will be taken off life support

'There was a lack of urgency,' Jahi McMath's uncle Omari Sealey said. 'It's shock, it's disbelief. You never think something like this will happen to you.'

Jahi went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated. She was given clotting medication to stop the hemorrhaging, but to no avail.

She spent the following day, Tuesday, on a ventilator, but by 2am on Wednesday doctors said a CT scan has revealed that two-thirds of her brain was swollen. On Thursday, she was declared legally brain-dead, according to the Oakland Tribune.

Spokesperson for Oakland Children's Hospital said in a statement: 'We're very sad about this outcome, about what's happened to her, but at this point I have no information on the details of the surgery.

'We will certainly investigate what happened. In any surgery there are risks and there can be unexpected, unanticipated complications.'

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