It was supposed to be a common surgical procedure to have her tonsils removed, but one week later, the family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath is fighting to keep a hospital in Oakland from taking her off life support.
Her uncle, Omari Sealey, told CNN on Monday that doctors had recommended the tonsillectomy to treat Jahi’s sleep apnea, weight gain, inability to concentrate and other afflictions.
So on Dec. 9, doctors at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland performed the surgery, which at first appeared to have gone well. But 30 minutes later, her condition quickly deteriorated after she started coughing up blood, her family said.
Jahi went into cardiac arrest and the flow of oxygen to her brain was cut off. The next day, a CT scan showed two-thirds of Jahi’s brain had swollen. Doctors declared her brain-dead, and days later planned to take her off life support until receiving a letter from an attorney who intervened at the last minute on behalf of the family, local media reported.
The attorney argued that the hospital has an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” in ending the girl’s life, NBC Bay Area reported.
“I just feel my daughter is trapped inside of her body, just screaming to get out of there," Latasha “Nailah” Winkfield told the station outside the hospital on Tuesday. “I won’t let them take her to the coroner’s office. I won’t.”
Hospital officials say they were not authorized to discuss specifics of the case, but the chief of pediatrics, David Durand, issued a statement saying the medical staff has a “longstanding commitment to delivering the highest quality care for all.”
“Our hearts go out to this patient and her family. Unfortunately, we have not been authorized by the family to share information with the public about this matter,” the statement read. “Consequently, we are not able to correct misperceptions created about this sad situation.
“Nonetheless, we want to assure the community that we are doing everything in our capacity to provide support to the grieving family.”
CNN, meanwhile, spoke to a private-practice pediatrician in New York who said excessive bleeding is a rare but not unheard of complication in tonsillectomies.
And if the patient is deemed brain-dead, medical experts said they are legally dead, and hospital officials can stop life support without consent from family members.
Jahi’s family told ABC7 News that the latest round of tests still showed no brain activity but that they were happy the hospital had “backed off” for the time being.
“We’re not on doctors’ times anymore, we’re on God’s time. It’s provided us more time to get together and pray,” Sealey told the station.