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January 7, 2014
Judge: Brain-dead teen can be moved from hospital
Contra Costa Times
OAKLAND, Calif. — Jahi McMath, the brain-dead girl at the center of a weeks-long legal battle that drew national attention, was checked in at an undisclosed care facility Monday morning, hours after she was moved out of Children's Hospital Oakland on Sunday.
Jahi's body had "deteriorated so badly" that her heart may not continue beating, family attorney Christopher Dolan said. The family had been demanding that doctors at Children's Hospital surgically insert a feeding tube for the girl, who did not receive nutrition for more than three weeks after she was declared brain dead, but courts ruled against them.
"Right now," Dolan added, "we don't know if she's going to make it."
The 13-year-old Oakland girl entered Children's Hospital on Dec. 9 for tonsil, throat and nose surgery to correct sleep apnea. While she was recovering, she developed bleeding complications, which led to cardiac arrest. Doctors declared her brain dead on Dec. 12 and she has been on a ventilator and had a fluid IV ever since.
Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, left the hospital with her daughter just before 8 p.m. Sunday in a "tense, but smooth" transfer that took between 45 minutes to an hour, Dolan said. The hospital turned Jahi over to the Alameda County Coroner's Office, which has issued a death certificate, and the coroner then relinguished custody to her family.
"The only thing I can equate it to is a hostage negotiation," Dolan said. "As soon as we would get one obstacle cleared, another obstacle would appear."
During a news conference Monday morning, Dolan confirmed that Jahi was now "safely where she needs to be," in a facility where she's receiving nutritional support, including potassium, minerals and hormones. She's also getting antibiotics to combat possible infection that Dolan said she may have suffered while at Children's Hospital.
Dolan said that, because of physical issues with Jahi's body, procedures to insert feeding and tracheotomy tubes were not performed. He would not disclose any more information about those issues, but said Jahi was being examined by medical staff at the new facility.
"She's in very bad shape," Dolan said. "What I can tell you is that those examinations show that her medical condition, separate from the brain issue, is not good."
Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, referred to the transport of Jahi's body as an emotional roller coaster.
"My sister she was crying," Sealey said at the Monday news conference. "I kissed her forehead and told her, 'I'll see you soon.'"
Sealey also said the family was relieved, grateful and happy that Jahi had been moved and added that although the family believes she is still alive, they will only come to terms with death if her other organs fail.
"We're not going to play God," Sealey said. "If her heart stops beating while she's hooked to the ventilator, we can accept that."
Dolan said he would not disclose the name of the new facility in order to protect Jahi's privacy and the privacy of others at the facility. He also said the family had received hundreds of threatening emails daily. Dolan said they had commitments from two facilities on Sunday but by the afternoon one of them had dropped out.
In all, he said, five facilities came forward to accept Jahi -- most of them changing their minds for various reasons. Some facilities indicated that they did not want to deal with the amount of media attention her story has attracted, Dolan said.
At the family's East Oakland home Monday afternoon, Jahi's stepfather, Martin Winkfield, said he was getting ready to catch a flight out of town -- he did not say where -- to see his wife and stepdaughter. He said only that he'd be gone for an indefinite period of time.
When asked how his wife was coping, Winkfield responded, "She's doing all right. She's just glad to have gotten her out of Children's."
Although it was unclear where Jahi was taken, a New York facility with ties to the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network had previously said it would accept her for long-term care and reiterated that in a statement to CNN on Sunday.
But at the New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, N.Y. on Monday, there was little to indicate Jahi had been moved there for treatment overnight.
Office workers rushed a reporter out of the building quickly and refused to answer questions about whether the brain-dead girl was at the facility.
An employee who would not give her name acknowledged that the treatment center was one of several locations that could have accepted Jahi. The woman said any statements issued by the care facility would be given by founder Allyson Scerri, who was not at the building Monday morning.
A phone call to Scerri was not returned.
In the lobby of the building, a large portrait of Terri Schiavo hung on the wall. Another portrait of an unidentified woman was dedicated to those who had lost their battle to traumatic brain injuries. A handful of patients were dropped off at the building's side entrance in private ambulances midmorning, but none appeared to be Jahi.
Jahi's removal from the hospital rendered moot a hearing set for Tuesday in federal court, and it was canceled Monday afternoon following a mutual agreement.
"It already is precedent-setting (that) what we heard in Judge (Evelio) Grillo's courtroom was something that stopped the medical field in its tracks," Dolan said.
On Friday, a negotiation supervised by Grillo, an Alameda County Superior Court judge, led to an agreement by both the family and the hospital to allow Jahi's mother to remove her daughter from the hospital under certain conditions.
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