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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.

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Tucky Girl January 09 2014 at 9:26 AM

The whole story is just sad.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
sternben January 09 2014 at 3:57 PM

How is this being funded?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Welcome Don January 09 2014 at 9:07 AM

How cruel for this family to put this childs remains through this.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
audissweet January 09 2014 at 4:04 PM

No one should be kept a live if they are brain dead I pray the family realizes this and let their child go

Flag Reply +12 rate up
dawglvrx3 January 09 2014 at 9:06 AM

I just wish the family members read these comments , maybe it would open their eyes and see how selfish they are being. i"ll say it again its all about the money , what $250.000 isn"t enough for them, they"ll only piss it away anyway. and this secret location WTF then stay off the media . if they really cared they would have just let her go in the first place. Be done with it already.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
jmlm1010 dawglvrx3 January 09 2014 at 9:23 AM

This family is not the least bit selfish. You on the other hand are another story!!! "Be done with it"???

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Jan January 09 2014 at 4:06 PM

The difference, Dawnala, is this...Little Jahi is not in a coma, she has been declared brain dead by three physicians. The circumstance was different for your neighbors mother, who was in a coma. I am so sorry for Jahi's family, and will keep them and Jahi in my prayers.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
lara24mfe January 09 2014 at 10:19 AM

It is difficult to contemplate how morbid this is. This child is dead.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jlaka272 January 09 2014 at 9:04 AM

If this mom had any sense to her, she would take her daughter off life support and "let god" bring her back to life. Afterall, she still thinks god is keeping her alive when it's machines that are keeping oxygen flowing through her body because, well, her BRAIN IS DEAD AND CAN'T DO THAT FOR HER!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
weaver817 jlaka272 January 09 2014 at 9:20 AM

AS LONG AS THERE IS LIFE THERE IS HOPE MIRACLES HAPPEN EVERY DAY SOME TIMES QUICKLY SOMETIME SLOWLY. AS YOUR FAITH SO BE IT UNTO YOU. WISDOM IS THE PRINCPLE THING.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
vondrazy January 09 2014 at 9:02 AM

What exactly is the feeding tube gonna do for her brain?

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
Tammy vondrazy January 09 2014 at 9:15 AM

nothing and not much for her dead body tissue, either. Her brain is turning into soup and the machines are just buying time while the rest of her body slowly breaks down. People with good intentions but not a lot of common sense are sending money and helping to foot the bill for this charade but public sympathy will soon be gone and then who will pay the bills? And this medical facility that is caring for her is doing nothing but giving false hope to the mom and family. She is dead;, her brain completely gone and she will not wake up or come back. Dead brain cells remain dead and cannot heal.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
jmlm1010 vondrazy January 09 2014 at 9:28 AM

I don't recall her family saying the feeding tube was going to do anything for her brain.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
lambsarty January 09 2014 at 9:01 AM

Such a waste of medical facility's. Just because the parents feel guilty and can't let the body go. It has more to do with self pity than any thing. Brain dead is just that if they want to keep her alive then donate her organs to another that way they can save a life and know that a part of her still lives.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
Tammy lambsarty January 09 2014 at 9:19 AM

way too late to donate her organs now.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
jmlm1010 lambsarty January 09 2014 at 9:29 AM

Her family has NOTHING to feel guilty about.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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