UPDATE - Life Support Being Taken from 13-Year-Old Left Brain-Dead After Tonsil Operation
A 13-year-old Oakland girl, declared brain dead after suffering complications after a routine tonsil-removal surgery, will be removed from life support Dec. 17, local television news site KTVU.com is reporting.
Jahi McMath, an eighth-grade student at the E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts in Oakland, had gone into cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma Dec. 12 during her recovery from a tonsillectomy at Children's Hospital Oakland days before.
Under state law, brain death must be determined by two different doctors through two different sets of tests at least 3 hours apart.
In a meeting with McMath's family Monday, the head of the hospital's pediatrics department reportedly told them that, because McMath had been declared dead under state law, she would be pulled from life support.
"We didn't want her to be removed from life support but the decision is out of our hands because it's been declared a legal death," said McMath's uncle, Omari Sealey.
The Alameda County Coroner apparently expected to pick up McMath's body Dec. 16, but hospital officials opted to keep life support on one more day, providing her family a little more time with her.
McMath's mother, Nailah Winkfield, had taken her daughter to hospital a little more than a week before to have her tonsils and adenoids removed, in hopes that would help the 13-year-old sleep better. Mcmath suffered from sleep apnea.
McMath appeared to undergo the surgery without difficulty, but in recovery she started bleeding from her nose and mouth.
"My daughter had actual clots sliding out of her mouth," said Winkfield, who asserts hospital staff simply "gave me a cup and said, 'Here, catch [the blood clots] with the cup so we can measure them."'
McMath's grandmother, Sandra Chatman, herself a surgical nurse, complained the hospital nursing staff did not seem to respond to what was happening until the family screamed for help.
"I was the last one to see Jahi ... I said, 'Somebody help my baby please!' And they came in and starting working on her," Chatman said. "The next thing I know, the doctor said, 'Oh no, she doesn't have a heart rate anymore.'"
Jahi McMath had lapsed into cardiac arrest, but was resuscitated and placed on a ventilator, where she remained in critical condition through the next day.
Around 2 a.m. of the third day, doctors said she had swelling in her brain.
McMath was declared legally brain-dead three days after her tonsillectomy, according to the Oakland Tribune.
"We will certainly investigate what happened. In any surgery there are risks and there can be unexpected, unanticipated complications," a spokesperson for the hospital said in a statement.
"As long as she has a pulse, we want her on life support," Omari Sealey, McMath's uncle had told media earlier. "We want her to come home for Christmas. We want to give her presents. We want a chance for a Christmas miracle."
But, in the end, said Sealey, "It's shock, it's disbelief. You never think something like this will happen to you."