After tonsillectomy leaves daughter brain-dead, mom vows fight

The mother of a teen left brain-dead after a tonsillectomy has vowed to stop doctors from taking her off a ventilator.

By Gabrielle Levy

The mother of a girl declared brain-dead after a routine tonsillectomy went catastrophically wrong said she's not done fighting to keep her daughter alive.

Nailah Winkfield has resisted efforts by the doctors at Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, Calif., to have her daughter, Jahi McMath, taken off life support.


Jahi went into the operation on December 9 and began profusely bleeding from her nose and mouth before going into cardiac arrest. She was placed on a ventilator, but swelling in her brain led doctors to declare her brain-dead three days later. Jahi's family said the hospital didn't do enough then -- and isn't doing enough to try to let her wake up now.

"I'm her mother, Winkfield said. "I'm going to support her. It's my job to do it. Any mother would do it. I just want her to have more time. There are so many stories of people waking up in her situation."

But the hospital, while offering their condolences and sympathy to her family, say keeping Jahi on the ventilator is only perpetuating false hope.

"We have the deepest sympathy for Jahi's mother, who wishes her daughter was alive; but the ventilator cannot reverse the brain death that has occurred and it would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life," said Dr. David Durand, the hospital's chief of pediatrics, in a statement on Monday.


Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ruled the hospital may not take Jahi off life support until December 30, encouraging the two sides to come together.

"This is a very, very charged case. The stakes are very high," Grillo said. "There is a young girl involved, and I think it would suit both parties well if you would speak with each other about how we are going to get through the next few days."

Winkfield, who said some hospital staff have told her Jahi has been trying to breathe on her own, accuses the hospital of pushing the decision to get Jahi off the ventilator.

"They have not given me a reason yet of why she went into cardiac arrest," Winkfield said. "They haven't even given me a reason for her bleeding. They haven't given me a reason that they couldn't stop the bleeding."

"The only thing they keep pushing for me is to get her off their ventilator."

But the hospital, which is barred by patient confidentiality laws from speaking about the details of the case, said Jahi's family has been perpetuating misinformation.

"This is obviously a tragic situation," said Douglas Straus, an attorney for the hospital. "A young lady has died and no one takes that in a callous or uncaring manner, but she is dead."


Dr. Paul Fisher, chief of pediatric neurology at Stanford Children's Hospital, was appointed by the judge to evaluate Jahi and determine next steps. He is expected to testify Tuesday in a closed-door hearing.


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