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California girl to be kept on life support

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 10:53 a.m. MST

Nailah Winkfield, center, mother of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, places her hands to her face before a courtroom hearing regarding McMath, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. McMath remains on life support at Children's Hospital Oakland nearly a week after doctors declared her brain dead, following a supposedly routine tonsillectomy.

Ben Margot, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — A 13-year-old California girl declared brain dead after complications from a tonsillectomy should be kept on life support for the time being, a judge has ruled.

The family of Jahi McMath says doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland wanted to disconnect life support after Jahi was declared brain dead on Dec. 12.

Friday's ruling by Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo came as both sides in the case agreed to get together and chose a neurologist to further examine Jahi and determine her condition. The judge scheduled a hearing Monday to appoint a physician.

The girl's family sought the court order to keep Jahi on a ventilator. They left the courtroom without commenting.

After her daughter underwent a supposedly routine tonsillectomy and was moved to a recovery room, Nailah Winkfield began to fear something was going horribly wrong.

Jahi was sitting up in bed, her hospital gown bloody, and holding a pink cup full of blood.

"Is this normal?" Winkfield repeatedly asked nurses.

With her family and hospital staff trying to help and comfort her, Jahi kept bleeding profusely for the next few hours then went into cardiac arrest, her mother said.

Despite the family's description of the surgery as routine, the hospital said in a memorandum presented to the court Friday that the procedure was a "complicated" one.

"Ms. McMath is dead and cannot be brought back to life," the hospital said in the memo, adding: "Children's is under no legal obligation to provide medical or other intervention for a deceased person."

In an interview at Children's Hospital Oakland on Thursday night, Winkfield described the nightmarish turn of events after her daughter underwent tonsil removal surgery to help with her sleep apnea.

She said that even before the surgery, her daughter had expressed fears that she wouldn't wake up after the operation. To everyone's relief, she appeared alert, was talking and even ate a Popsicle afterward.

But about a half-hour later, shortly after the girl was taken to the intensive care unit, she began bleeding from her mouth and nose despite efforts by hospital staff and her family.

While the bleeding continued, Jahi wrote her mother notes. In one, the girl asked to have her nose wiped because she felt it running. Her mother said she didn't want to scare her daughter by saying it was blood.

Family members said there were containers of Jahi's blood in the room, and hospital staff members were providing transfusions to counteract the blood loss.

"I don't know what a tonsillectomy is supposed to look like after you have it, but that blood was un-normal for anything," Winkfield said.

The family said hospital officials told them in a meeting Thursday that they want to take the girl off life support quickly.

"I just looked at the doctor to his face and I told him you better not touch her," Winkfield recalled.

Despite the family's description of the surgery as routine, the hospital said in a memorandum presented to the court Friday that the procedure was a "complicated" one.

"Ms. McMath is dead and cannot be brought back to life," the hospital said in the memo, adding: "Children's is under no legal obligation to provide medical or other intervention for a deceased person."

The family filed a request Friday for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the hospital from taking Jahi off life support or any of her other current treatment.

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