A California family's agonizing struggle to keep a 13-year-old girl alive on life support continued Monday when a judge in Oakland appointed Paul Graham Fisher, the chief of child neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine, to determine if Jahi McMath has any chance of recovering.
Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy Dec. 9 in an effort to correct sleep apnea and other issues. Three days later, citing complications from the surgery, physicians placed Jahi on a ventilator. She was declared brain-dead, and it took a court order Friday to keep Children's Hospital Oakland from removing her from the breathing apparatus that is keeping her alive.
Fisher is scheduled to present his findings on Jahi's prospects in court Tuesday, when the family will press Judge Evelio Grillo to allow Paul Byrne, a pediatric professor at the University of Toledo, to perform an additional evaluation of Jahi.
While the hearing was underway, dozens of family members and supporters gathered for a 3-mile march to raise awareness for Jahi's plight. Emotions in the case have run high — a Facebook page "Keep Jahi Mcmath on life support" warned marchers in advance to remain calm.
"Please remember there will be children present and we want this to be a very peaceful & respectful March," a Facebook post reads. "Please come with the spirit of God & leave any foolishness behind."
Lawyers for the hospital say two hospital physicians have determined Jahi is brain-dead — and that, at the request of Jahi's family, three doctors unaffiliated with the hospital were called in. All agreed with the prognosis.
"There is absolutely no medical possibility that (Jahi's) condition is reversible or that she will someday recover from death," declarations from the doctors said. "Thus, there is no medical justification to provide any further medical treatment whatsoever."
Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, says her daughter suffered massive bleeding after the surgery and went into cardiac arrest. Family members say they are praying that divine intervention will save Jahi's life.
Winkfield, in an open letter this weekend, pleaded for prayers and time to keep her daughter on a ventilator past Monday, when a temporary restraining order barring the hospital from disconnecting life support had been set to expire.
"Despite what they say, she is alive. I can touch her, she is warm. She responds to my touch," Winkfield wrote. "Given time I know (God) will spark her brain awake."
Children's Hospital Oakland responded in a statement that while it sympathizes with Winkfield's wishes, "it would be unfair to give false hope that Jahi will come back to life."