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Calif. teen called 'brain dead' gets feeding tube

'Brain Dead' Teen Now Has Feeding, Breathing Tubes

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The family of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery has gotten her the feeding and breathing tubes that they had been fighting for.

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the girl's family, said doctors inserted the gastric tube and tracheostomy tube Wednesday at the undisclosed facility where Jahi McMath was taken Jan. 5.

The procedure was a success, Dolan said, and Jahi is getting the treatment that her family believes she should have gotten 28 days ago, when doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland first declared her brain dead.

Jahi underwent tonsil surgery Dec. 9, then began bleeding heavily before going into cardiac arrest and being declared brain dead Dec. 12.

Her mother has refused to believe Jahi is dead and went to court to prevent her daughter from being taken off a ventilator.

Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, said Monday that she is now being cared for at a facility that shares her family's belief that she still is alive.

The new facility has "been very welcoming with open arms," Sealey said. "They have beliefs just like ours."

Neither Dolan nor the family would disclose the name or location of that facility, which took the eighth-grader after a weekslong battle by her family to prevent Children's Hospital Oakland from removing her from the breathing machine that has kept her heart beating.

But medical experts said the ventilator won't work indefinitely and caring for a patient whom three doctors have said is legally dead is likely to be challenging because - unlike someone in a coma - there is no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.

The bodies of brain dead patients kept on ventilators gradually deteriorate, eventually causing blood pressure to plummet and the heart to stop, said Dr. Paul Vespa, director of neurocritical care at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has no role in McMath's care. The process usually takes only days but can sometimes continue for months, medical experts say.

"The bodies are really in an artificial state. It requires a great deal of manipulation in order to keep the circulation going," Vespa said.

Brain-dead people may look like they're sleeping, he added, but it's "an illusion based on advanced medical techniques."

Sealey, the girl's uncle, said Monday that Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, is relieved her persistence paid off and "sounds happier." He criticized Children's Hospital for repeatedly telling Winkfield they did not need her permission to remove Jahi from the ventilator because the girl was dead.

Sealey told reporters Monday that Jahi traveled by ground from Children's Hospital to the unnamed facility and there were no complications in the transfer, suggesting she may still be in California.

The $55,000 in private donations the family has raised since taking the case public helped cover the carefully choreographed handoff to the critical care team and transportation to the new location, Sealey said.

"If her heart stops beating while she is on the respirator, we can accept that because it means she is done fighting," he said. "We couldn't accept them pulling the plug on her early."

Meanwhile, an advocacy group is facing sharp criticism for using Jahi's case to try to raise money.

The nonprofit Consumer noted in an email solicitation that it fights for patient safety for families like Jahi's and that it had drafted a proposed November ballot measure that would raise medical malpractice award limits in California.

Dolan, the family attorney, is a board member of Consumer Attorneys of California, the prime group funding the ballot initiative to lift the cap on pain and suffering awards. But he said he was dismayed that Consumer Watchdog used Jahi's name as a fundraising tool.

"Using Jahi's case as an example is wrong and that is not what this case is about," he said in a text message to the Associated Press.

Hospital spokesman Sam Singer also criticized the use of Jahi's case for fundraising, calling it "tasteless and thoughtless."

Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Carmen Balber said the funds were being solicited for the organization's patient safety program, not the political campaign, and none of the money would go to the ballot measure.

"We thought we were being clear," she said. "This email has been construed in ways we didn't expect."

Consumer Watchdog's Christmas Eve email to supporters prominently mentioned the Jahi McMath case to support the need for its advocacy work and for lifting the state's 38-year-old cap on medical malpractice awards.

"Hospitals like Children's actually have an incentive to let children like Jahi die," the email said. "If kids injured by medical negligence die, the most their families can recover is $250,000. ... If children who are victims of medical negligence live, hospitals are on the hook for medical bills for life, which could be millions."

If it gets on November's ballot and passes, the Troy & Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would raise the cap on medical malpractice awards to about $1.2 million, a limit that would increase based on inflation, said Bob Pack, chair of the campaign committee. He said the group has collected about 500,000 signatures and wants 300,000 more by March 25 to assure there are enough valid ones to qualify for the ballot.

Join the discussion

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ted256 January 09 2014 at 10:06 AM

I wish the family the best regardless of the outcome. Losing a child is the most devastating thing I can imagine.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
SeaboardStation January 09 2014 at 2:58 PM

As someone who has dealt with this situation, and the person that was brain dead had a living will stating not to keep them alive. But a couple of family members thought he would survive. It isn't going to happen. Your own stupidity keeps this poor kid suffering. I hope the parents are on the dole for paying the expense and not the state. If my family did this to me, I'd haunt them to the end.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
1 reply
EddieEMorris SeaboardStation January 09 2014 at 3:01 PM


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simivalleysue January 09 2014 at 2:59 PM

Donations are great, but long term it's the taxpayer who has to foot the bill. I have already discussed this situation with my loved ones & we all agree that if we have to deal with similar situations we are taking the pragmatic approach. 1. Lovingly release the brain dead loved one from an purposeless existence 2. Save the family and the taxpayer the fiscal trauma of paying for a purposeless existence.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
2 replies
marymary2010 simivalleysue January 09 2014 at 3:21 PM

"I" agree with you but if it were me makng a decision on one of my children, I don't know how I would handle it and hope I never have to find out. I even tell my children to not call the paramedics for 20 minutes because they by law need to keep you going, "unless you have that declaration IN YOUR POCKET". Just kidding, maybe, I know my children probably would not listen but it would be really wise if we like you had ALL the bases covered. Blessings! MM

Flag Reply 0 rate up
mspat1001 simivalleysue January 09 2014 at 3:24 PM

Everyone should have a Living Will and have copies everywhere. Parametics pay no attention to them but make your drs and hospitals have copies. Paramentics said they save lives not anything else.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
chrissy mspat1001 January 09 2014 at 5:01 PM

your right. when paramedics came for my late father in law, who never recovered from a TBI from a fall down the stairs, they asked about the living will so it could be transported with him, they expressed that they "had to do everything to help him" including a breathing tube that he did not want.
it took us almost a year to honor his wishes and have it and the feeding tube removed. he was skin and bones and never spoke or recognized anyone again. it was heart wrenching.

Flag 0 rate up
Robert January 09 2014 at 3:07 PM

as sad as it is who is paying for all this

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
mspat1001 Robert January 09 2014 at 3:22 PM

She is in a catholic facility so probably being paid for by Catholic Charities.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
donna Robert January 09 2014 at 3:29 PM

the hospital...read the article....they are liable for all medical while alive!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
rhondi03 donna January 09 2014 at 3:36 PM

who is paying the hospital? are you saying the hospital said they will foot the bill although it is against their medical advice?

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charlesjbarneysr donna January 09 2014 at 5:26 PM

The hospital does not have to cover it because she is not still alive, she is dead. RIP

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RCB January 09 2014 at 3:12 PM

OMG she can't breathe without the tube---dead

Flag Reply +10 rate up
ML January 09 2014 at 9:39 AM

Cali is all brain dead

Flag Reply +3 rate up
jaimskii January 09 2014 at 9:38 AM

This is a tragedy, for Jahi and her family. It's heartbreaking to lose your child, however keeping her "alive" by the ventilator and feeding tubes is not going to bring her back. Have you ever watched someone brain dead die, I have and it's terrible! It's time to let her go. Brain dead is brain dead, you won't ever recover from that, there won't be a miracle. Stop kidding yourselves and let her die with whatever dignity she may have left. Rest in peace Jahi.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
ecinicola January 09 2014 at 3:30 PM

i Am so sorry for that family, but i disagree with what they are doing now. 3 doctors have said she is Brain dead and they should pull the plug. This girl will never regain any type life even if she survives all this, which is extremely doubtful. Whatever the Mother feels, I think she needs to accept the fact her daughter will never regain a life and it her best interest she should let go. I know that is hard to do for that Mother, and I understand her wanting to try this and bring her daughter back, but in reality I don't feel it will happen and it is prolonging the final death of her daughter. The Mother loves her daughter and doesn't want her to die. I understand that. But I believe she should let go and let the daughter be in peace.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Tucky Girl January 09 2014 at 9:26 AM

The whole story is just sad.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Bill January 09 2014 at 9:21 AM

Valid signatures? So who is paying for all of this?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
ntweety7777 Bill January 09 2014 at 9:27 AM

the tax payors are paying for this

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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