A lawyer for a family whose 13-year-old was declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy to cure her sleep apnea filed an "urgent" request seeking to block the hospital from further action Tuesday, the same day employees planned to take the girl off life support. Jean Elle reports.
The family of an 8th grader declared "brain dead" following a tonsillectomy is organizing a worldwide prayer vigil for the teen on Wednesday, one day after two tests showed no signs of life.
The service will begin at 6 p.m. at Paradise Baptist Church in Oakland.
"We are going to pray this girl back to perfect heath," said Omari Sealey, the uncle of 13-year-old Jahi McMath of Oakland, who had her tonsils out on Dec. 9 and was declared brain dead three days later.
Jahi's family has been holding court outside Children's Hospital for the last several days, taking to the media to make their battle public to keep Jahi on life support. Her heart is still beating, though two EEG tests on Tuesday showed no signs of life, according to her family. They say she seemed fine after her initial surgery, but ended up coughing up blood about 30 minutes later and suffered a cardiac arrest. She has not been conscious since.
Sealey called attorney Chris Dolan earlier this week, who sent a "cease and desist" letter to Children's Hospital, telling the top staff that they had an "irreconcilable conflict of interest" in determining whether Jahi should be taken off life support. On Tuesday, hospital officials agreed, at least temporarily, to heed the family's request. Dolan told NBC Bay Area that "there is no established time table now," but that doctors will monitor her condition and "reassess and reevaluate in several days."
The hospital says it is prevented from commenting by federal laws that restrict doctors from speaking about their patients' medical history without consent. Dr. David Durand, chief of pediatrics, stated in an email that " unfortunately, we have not been authorized by the family to share information with the public about this matter. Consequently, we are not able to correct misperceptions created about this sad situation. "
Jahi had the tonsillectomy to help her with sleep apnea, the family has said, but has never disclosed more.
Durand added in his statement that "Nonetheless, we want to assure the community that we are doing everything in our capacity to provide support to the grieving family. We have been caring for children in this community for over 100 years and have a longstanding commitment to delivering the highest quality care for all...Our hearts go out to this patient and her family."
Jahi's family is hoping the prayer will help. Despite a "brain dead" diagnosis, the 8th grader's heart continues to beat. And that gives Jahi's God-fearing family something to hang onto.
"I feel her," her mother, Latasha "Naila" Winkfield said on Tuesday outside the hospital. "I can feel my daughter, trapped inside of her own body. She is warm and soft, like she is sleeping. We are fighting for you. Your mother will never stop fighting for you."
"Everybody is praying right now for a miracle," added her stepfather, Marvin Winkfield.
Sealey, who considers his niece like his own child, urged anyone who lives nearby to physically come to the church to pray. And anyone who lives far at home should simply pray for Jahi at home.
"We're not on doctor's time," Sealey said. "We're on God's time "
NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd and Jean Elle contributed to this report.