Nailah Winkfield can tell you what LImbo is. It is that painful waiting period at her 13 year old daughter’s bedside, while Oakland Children’s Hospital and the courts decide if the girl lives or dies.
Jahi McMath entered Oakland Children’s Hospital on December 9th for a routine tonsillectomy with an overnight stay. Several hours after the surgery she began to bleed “copious amounts of blood from her mouth and nose”, according to her family and the family’s attorney, Christopher Dolan. The girl was moved from her hospital room to an ICU room and eventually placed on a ventilator.
By December 12th Jahi was declared brain dead or, as the hospital states it, “clinically” dead. According to the hospital representatives she has no brain waves and hospital officials have declared that she is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Their spokespersons are saying that they are not obligated to continue treatment for a dead person.
According to her family, their beloved daughter is very much alive. The hospital has refused to provide the family with full medical disclosure on the surgery performed and the treatment following the surgery and hemorrhage.
Jahi’s plight has caught the attention not only of the Oakland African American community, but of the nation. The secular print and electronic media including Fox News has reported on the case.
Today a strong showing of community support for the family took place when large numbers of people took part in a Walk for Jahi which began at the Hospital located at Martin Luther King Way and 52nd St. toward Berkeley and back to the hospital. The demonstrators had a police escort which closed off a part of the street for the Walkers who prayer for Jahi’s return to good health as they walked.
According to one member of the Walk, Walter B. Hoye, ll, people came out of their shops and homes along the route to add their encouragement and good wishes for Jahi’s recovery.
The hospital officials remain silent on Jahi’s sitatution claiming that they have not been given permission to speak publicly. However, Mr. Dolan, the family attorney has stated that no one, to his knowledge, has asked for the family’s permission to speak. In the meantime no one knows whether Jahi is receiving food and fluids, or an iv drip. No one knows if she has received an MRI to determine if brain waves do, indeed, exist. No one knows if she has a pulse. If she has been without nutrition and hydration for 12 days her situation could be coming perilously close to death by dehydration. Her ability to respond to any outside stimuli might be greatly diminished for this reason alone.
Jahi has been examined by two outside doctors and, apparently, a couple of Children’s Hospital doctors. The surgeon who performed the tonsillectomy has made no public statement nor, apparently, even visited the child.
People from groups supportive of assisted suicide have take advantage of this waiting period to discuss the value of organ donations and write newspaper articles discussing benefits or not of life support. They are of the opinion that one is merely kept on a ventilator in order to harvest one’s organs.
In the meantime, while everyone awaits today’s (Monday 12/23/13) deadline for specialists to observe and make recommendations as to Jahi’s prognosis, the media has used this situation to discuss the value of tonsillectomies or the propriety of removing someone from life support.
At no time, it seems, has anyone discussed or questioned the role of the hospital in all of this. The hospital has said that it has done everything possible to provide information and “services” to the family, such as providing them with a private meeting room. No one has called into question the hospital’s role in rushing to declare the girl to be brain dead and calling for her removal from life support. Will the hospital be protected from official scrutiny for this apparently poorly performed tonsillectomy? Will they be absolved for stealing a 13 year old girl’s life?
No one has questioned just what role the hospital is playing in all of this. Are they the obedient servant of bureaucratic rigid rules or are they the servants of ill in their community.
Will it be life or death for this 13 year old girl who needed nothing more than a tonsillectomy? The Teri Schindler Schiavo Foundation has taken note of Jahi’s situation since it appears to parallel her situation in many respects.
Across the country people are praying for this child that Christmas will bring the gift of continued life to Jahi McMath and a sense of compassion to the officials of Oakland Children’s Hospital.
Spero columnist Camille Giglio is freelance writer, based in California.
Update for January 1, 2014 in response to a reader's comment:
Mr. Brent B. It is noted that you have sympathetic feelings for the 13 year old Children's Hospital patient, Jahi McMath. You believe that my writings about the dire situation of this girl is misguided simply because I got some medical alphabet letters wrong. I am sorry if that is confusing to many, but whether the proper letters are an MRI or an EEG, the fact remains that this girl's situation has been egregiously handled by the hospital.
The hospital, the courts and the media are playing politically correct games with this girl's life. She is caught in the deadly crosscurrents between politics, laws and hospital credibility. The hospital organ transplant people allegedly wanted her for her organs. The hospital allegedly wanted her to be quickly dispatched for their bottom line profit statement but her family wanted her for their love of their child. Jahi has persisted in living even though the hospital has reportedly denied her basic nutrients and care for fear of having to acknowledge that she is still a living and valued human being.
There is much to be learned in this next year about just what is meant by palliative care, terminal sedation, futile care and hospice. Your life and that of a loved one could depend upon it.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.