SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain dead after a surgery is now in a facility where her family can take care of her, a place her uncle says that believes as much they do that she’s alive.
A critical care team took Jahi McMath while she was attached to a ventilator but without a feeding tube on Sunday night from Children’s Hospital Oakland, after a weekslong battle with the hospital over her care.
Her family wouldn’t disclose where she had been taken. Her uncle, Omari Seeley, said Monday that she traveled by ground and that there were no complications in the transfer, suggesting Jahi may be in California.
The new facility has “been very welcoming with open arms. They have beliefs just like ours,” he said. “They believe as we do.”
While the move ends what had been a very public and tense fight with the hospital, it also brings on new challenge: caring for her.
Jahi went into cardiac arrest while recovering from surgery to fix severe sleep apnea, a condition where the sufferer’s breath stops or becomes labored while sleeping. To help her, surgeons removed her tonsils and other parts of her nose and throat.
Three doctors have declared Jahi brain dead based on exams and tests showing no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.
This is different from being in a coma when there is brain activity.
Multiple outside doctors and bioethicists observing the case have said a patient in that condition meets the legal criteria for death and has no chance of recovering.
The hospital had wanted to remove Jahi from the ventilator that is keeping her heart pumping, arguing in court that Jahi’s brain death means she is legally dead.
Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, refusing to believe her daughter is dead as long as her heart is beating, had gone to court to stop the machine from being disconnected.
She has wanted to transfer Jahi to another facility and had hoped to force the hospital either to insert the tubes or to allow an outside doctor to do so.
The hospital refused to fit her with a feeding tube or a breathing tube that would help stabilize her during a move. Hospital officials say it was unethical to perform medical procedures on a dead person.
When the hospital refused to do the procedures and after weeks of court battles, the two sides reached an agreement, provided that Winkfield would be held responsible if her daughter went into cardiac arrest.
The hospital released Jahi to the coroner, who then released her into the custody of Winkfield, as per court order.
The family’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan, said Jahi’s condition suffered because of poor nutrition during her hospital stay. “We are very relieved she got safely to where she needed to be,” he said.
“She’s in very bad shape,” he said. “You would be too, if you hadn’t had nutrition in 26 days and were a sick little girl to begin with.”
Dolan asked for privacy for the caregivers.