East Bay News

Oakland family: Children's Hospital calls girl 'dead'

Friday, December 20, 2013
Nailah Winkfield speaks at a press conference Jahi McMaths mother Jahi McMath vigil in Oakland Family wears t-shirts with Jahi McMaths photo on them Jahi McMath Jahi McMaths family stands outside Childrens Hospital Oakland Childrens Hospital Oakland logo Jahi McMath and her family Jahi McMaths family Nailah Winkfield, Marvin Winkfield, and 13-year-old daughter Jahi McMath A 13-year-old girl from Oakland is brain dead after she had surgery to have her tonsils removed at Oakland Childrens Hospital.

The family of a teenage girl on life support took their fight to a new level on Thursday night. While doctors offer no hope that 13-year-old Jahi McMath will ever recover, her grief-stricken family is refusing to give up. Her mother is warning doctors to leave her be.

This family's battle to keep a Jahi on life support is growing more contentious. Thursday night family members stood guard at her bedside. After a meeting with hospital administrators early Thursday evening, the family emerged visibly shaken. The hospital has been imploring the family to let them speak publicly about the case.

Jahi's family wants her to remain on life support so they can spend the Christmas holiday with her, but say the hospital is refusing their request. Family members say they were told by hospital administrators Thursday that Jahi is "dead, dead, dead, dead."

Jahi's mother -- Nailah Winkfield -- Jahi's uncle and the family attorney say that was a direct quote from the chief of pediatrics at Children's Hospital Oakland.

"That's the only words he could use for her was 'dead,'" said Winkfield.

The family met with Children's Hospital administrators to ask for Jahi's medical records. The eighth grader, who is now brain dead, has been on life support since last week and her family wants to know why she went into cardiac arrest after a routine tonsillectomy.

"What is absolutely ridiculous is that this hospital says to them, 'You cannot have an independent doctor come in and see her and examine her and you cannot have her medical records to take them to an independent doctor,'" said Chris Dolan, the family's attorney.

We requested a statement from Children's Hospital, but it says the family will not authorize it to talk about Jahi's case. The family says the hospital is pressuring them to remove Jahi from life support, so they say they're guarding her bedside around the clock.

"I said, 'Well can we have her for Christmas? Can she just stay for Christmas so I can bring her a gift and her sisters and brothers can celebrate Christmas with her?' And he said, 'No. We want this done quickly,'" said Winkfield.

The family gave us a touching photo of Jahi holding her mother's hand.

Friday morning, the family's attorney says he'll be in court filing for an injunction to legally prevent Children's Hospital from taking Jahi off life support.

Earlier on Thursday a letter was delivered to the hospital from the family asking that the hospital take "no action" to remove Jahi from the ventilator prior to Christmas. They're also asking for a 48-hour notice before the hospital does anything and they're requesting a second and third opinion about the state of her condition.

"There's anxiety, there's anger, there's sadness, there's all of that. You go through all that when you go through a tragedy like this," said Omari Sealey, Jahi's uncle.

On Wednesday night the family held a prayer vigil for Jahi's recovery, but beyond God's help, they're looking for answers from the hospital. They want documents related to her case, as well as what went wrong and why.

"She's still warm. I can feel her presence, I can still feel her smile," said Sealey.

That's why the family refuses to give up and through their attorney, presented the hospital with a letter.

"We would like to have a nutrition tube, a G-tube, for nutrition for my niece and that they don't make any moves until after Christmas and if they do so to please notify us within 48-hours," said Sealey.

Children's Hospital responded by scheduling an afternoon meeting between the family and the hospital's chief of pediatrics. Among the issues they had planned to discuss was what the family says should be the hospital's responsibility -- the cost of caring for a legally brain dead 13-year old and keeping her attached to a ventilator.

"If there is a cost of getting her the chance of living, that should happen here too," said Dolan.

Under California law, "a person who is declared brain dead is legally and physiologically dead." Jahi suffered cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead on December 12 and legally dead on Monday, Dec. 16.

Jahi's story has even caught the attention of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

"It's tragic, that little girl and what her family must be experiencing, feeling. We are monitoring it to see if and whether there is any role that we would play appropriately. So we are following it and I'm paying attention to it," said Harris.

Jahi's family is trying to get additional medical opinions from experts who have not been connected to her care, but those doctors need to see her medical records, which the hospital has not released so far.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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oakland, children, children's hospital oakland, vigil, east bay news
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