OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The mother of a 13-year-old California girl who was declared brain dead after suffering complications from sleep apnea surgery is speaking out several weeks after taking her daughter out of a hospital.
Nailah Winkfield said in a letter that appeared Wednesday on Facebook and Twitter that she believes her daughter, Jahi McMath, is “much better physically” since she was removed from Children’s Hospital Oakland last month.
“It has been over a month since I have spoken about my life with Jahi to anyone outside a very small circle of family and friends,” Winkfield wrote. “So many people have asked how we are doing and if Jahi is alive.”
In the letter, she expressed gratitude for the emotional and financial support she has received from people around the world.
“If I had it my way, I would say thank you to each and every person in their native language so they could understand how much I appreciate them for all their support and, most importantly, prayers,” Winkfield wrote.
She added, “Despite what people say about my daughter being dead and how I must be ignorant not to get that, I can tell you that she is much better physically since she has left Children’s Hospital and I see changes that give me hope.”
Her letter didn’t give details of Jahi’s condition or say where she is.
Jahi’s family has said the girl is at an undisclosed location and has been given feeding and breathing tubes while remaining on a ventilator.
Family attorney Christopher Dolan said the letter is meant for people supporting Jahi and her family.
Jahi underwent tonsil surgery Dec. 9 and began bleeding heavily before going into cardiac arrest. Doctors declared her brain dead Dec. 12 based on exams and tests showing no blood flow or electrical activity in either her cerebrum or the brain stem that controls breathing.
Her mother has refused to believe Jahi is dead and went to court to prevent her daughter from being taken off a ventilator.
Medical experts have said the ventilator won’t work indefinitely and caring for a patient whom three doctors have said is legally dead is likely to be challenging.
The bodies of brain-dead patients kept on ventilators gradually deteriorate, eventually causing blood pressure to plummet and the heart to stop, said Dr. Paul Vespa, director of neurocritical care at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has no role in Jahi’s care. The process usually takes only days but can sometimes continue for months, medical experts say.
“The bodies are really in an artificial state. It requires a great deal of manipulation in order to keep the circulation going,” Vespa said.
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