Brain Dead Girl’s Mother Speaks Out

brain deadIn a letter released on Twitter on Wednesday, Jahi McMath’s mother spoke out about her daughter’s condition in the new facility after being ruled brain-dead in December. Jahi’s uncle, Omar Sealey, posted her mother’s letter on Twitter, which provides little detail, except that she is still alive and the family is still hopeful for her recovery.

Jahi’s story got worldwide attention, in part because of the fight her mother, Nailah Winkfield, put up to keep her alive. The 13-year-old girl was declared brain-dead on Dec, 12 following complications from surgery she had on Dec. 9 on her tonsils, nose and throat to correct sleep apnea. She went into cardiac arrest.

Three different doctors gave the same diagnoses: brain death. Tests confirmed that no blood flow or electrical activity was reaching her upper or lower brain. Medical experts plead their case to remove the brain-dead girl from the breathing tube, which they said would not provide long-term support. They also said that caring for a brain-dead family member can be exhausting, physically, mentally and financially.

Brain death is not to be confused with a coma or vegetative state, in which the person still has faint brain activity. Though it appears a brain-dead person is asleep, they have no brain activity. Both parts of the brain have stopped working, despite the remaining heartbeat, which usually stops within a few days or months.

The family was not ready to give up that easily though. They fought the hospital and waged a battle in court to keep her alive. Winkfield wanted her to stay on the ventilator and have a feeding tube inserted.

The family won the court battle and got a restraining order against the hospital to stop them from removing the ventilator. On Jan. 5, the brain-dead girl was moved to an undisclosed location for further treatment.

One doctor from the nonprofit group, the International Brain Research Foundation, claims that brain death may not be the end of the road for some patients. Dr. Jonathan Fellus backed up Winkfield’s feelings of hope. He argues that Jahi needs time to heal from the cardiac arrest that she suffered, but she is young and could show improvements over time.

The letter by Winkfield was intended to stop speculation about her daughter’s condition. She decided to speak out to let everyone know Jahi is alive and doing better. Despite her daughter’s diagnosis, she has seen positive improvements since she left Children’s Hospital Oakland, which is enough to give her hope.

She went on to thank supporters for their generous donations that made the move and the physical improvements possible. She did not share any more details about Jahi’s current condition or the hospital where she is now receiving care.

The family maintains that Jahi is not suffering. “She is surrounded by love,” Winkfield said. “I will not let her suffer,” she reassured people who have shown concern.

Jahi’s mom believes that her daughter’s story and the challenges she has faced will change how people view brain death. Winkfield said that as long as her daughter has a heartbeat, she is still alive. Only when it stops will she give up hope.

By Tracy Rose


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