Skip to comments.The Gifts of Jahi
Posted on 01/01/2014 4:23:26 AM PST by Kaslin
New Year's Day should be a time of fresh beginnings and forward motion. But for the family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, the holiday season has been suspended in a cloud of unfathomable pain and suffering: A routine tonsillectomy gone wrong. A beautiful child declared "brain dead." Lawyers, TV cameras, tears.
The McMaths are fighting for life. On Monday, they won a court order that prevents Children's Hospital of Oakland from pulling the plug on Jahi until Jan. 7. Her relatives have been attacked as "publicity hounds" for doing everything possible to raise awareness about the young girl's tragic case. They've been criticized as troublemakers for challenging powerful hospital officials. They've been labeled "selfish" and ignorant because they are praying for a miracle.
Why, many observers ask, don't they just "accept reality" and let go?
As the mother of a 13-year-old girl, I would have done everything Jahi's mom has done to this point. Everything. Here's reality: Children's Hospital faces serious malpractice questions about its care of Jahi. Hospital execs have a glaring conflict of interest in wielding power over her life support. According to relatives, medical officials callously referred to Jahi as "dead, dead, dead" and dismissed the child as a "body."
The McMath family refused to be rushed or pushed around. They demanded respect for their loved one. I say more power to them.
There are plenty of reasons to question the medical establishment's handling of catastrophic cases involving brain injury and "brain death." In 2008, doctors were dead certain that 21-year-old Zack Dunlop was legally deceased after a horrible ATV accident. Tests showed there was no blood flow to his brain. His hospital issued a death notice. Authorities prepared to harvest his organs. But family members were not convinced. A cousin who happened to be a nurse tested Zack's reflexes on his own one last time as the hospital swooped in. The "brain dead" "body" responded. Forty-eight days later, the supposedly impossible happened: "Brain dead" Zack Dunlop walked out of the hospital and lived to tell about his miraculous recovery on the Today Show.
The immense pressure Jahi's family faces to give up and give in reminded me of another child written off by medical and government officials: Haleigh Poutre. She's the miracle child who was nearly beaten to death by her barbaric stepfather. Hooked to a ventilator in a comatose state, she was then nearly condemned to death by Massachusetts medical experts and the state's criminally negligent child welfare bureaucracy, which hastily declared her to be in a hopeless vegetative state and wanted to pull the plug on her life.
The "experts" were wrong. Haleigh breathed on her own; a caring team of therapists nursed her back to health. Soon, she was brushing her hair and feeding herself. She lived to testify against her abusive stepfather, now behind bars. Her survival is a stark warning against blind, yielding trust in Big Nanny and Big Medicine.
We don't know what God has planned for Jahi. But I do know this: America has become a throwaway culture where everything and everyone -- from utensils to diapers to cameras to babies -- is disposable. Elites sneer at the sanctity of life. The Terri Schiavo case brought out the worst, most dehumanizing impulses of American medical ethics debates. And from the attacks I've seen on the McMath family, little has changed.
Schiavo's brother, Bobby, knows exactly how it feels to battle the culture of death and medical expediency. His group, Terri's Network, and other pro-life organizations are trying to help with Jahi's transfer to a long-term care facility. In the meantime, Jahi's plight serves as a teachable moment for those with ears, eyes and hearts open. This is a gift. "Families and individuals must make themselves aware of what so-called 'brain death' is and what it is not," Schindler advises. "Additionally, families and individuals must educate themselves regarding their rights as patients, the advance documentation that must be completed prior to any medical procedure as well as how to ensure best any patient's rights."
Jahi's story should also prompt family discussions about living wills, durable powers of attorney, "do not resuscitate" orders, revocable trusts and advance directives. It's never too early to broach these uncomfortable matters of life and death.
I want to thank Naila Winkfield and the McMath family for not "letting go" so easily. Their plight is every parent's worst nightmare. Their fight reaches beyond ideology, race, and class. The united front of the family and the public testaments of their faith in God are gifts. The Instagram image of Naila clasping her daughter's hand at her hospital bedside -- the hope, the desperation, the abiding love -- is universal. At the start of 2014, the greatest gift of Jahi is her transcendent reminder that all life is precious. Let it not be taken for granted.
How do you know that, unless the hospital violated her HIPAA rights?
I only posted what has been reported in the link I provided and what has also been stated by some other news outlets that this was not just a routine tonsillectomy (not that any surgery is routine), but that the tonsillectomy was just one of several surgical procedures performed that day. Also post-op, rather than being kept for a short time in a recovery room and then sent to her hospital room, she was sent to ICU as would be normal for someone like Jahi who was morbidly obese (and perhaps had other underlying health conditions) and had just undergone such major surgery.
As to whether any of this information violated HIPAA, I dont know for sure. The family and their lawyer have made a lot of statements, the hospitals lawyer also, at least before the family filed a restraining order preventing the hospital and doctors from saying pretty much anything except whats been disclosed in court. Since the court as far as I know, hasnt put a gag order in place, any information that is part of court filings and procedures would, I believe be a matter of public record and not covered by HIPAA.
My point is that many in the MSM have often reported and repeated that this was a routine tonsillectomy which it certainly wasnt.
Let's be honest here, would you ever, under any circumstance, say something which criticized a hospital?
What am I ignoring and what makes you think I would never under any circumstance, say something which criticized a hospital? If you are assuming that I am a doctor because of my screen name and therefore am sticking up for my kind, you are wrong. The MD is Maryland not Medical Doctor if that is what you were thinking.
However, I dont and neither do you know if the doctors and or the hospital staff are at fault for the girls death. According to what the family and their attorney says; when Jahi started bleeding heavily, they were told the bleeding was normal and the nurses didnt do anything at first or until it was too late it is alleged. If that is true, then the hospital should be sued and her family compensated for a wrongful death and I contrary to what you seem to assume, would support that outcome.
According to this, it sounds to me as though in the ICU, her severe bleeding was not promptly addressed:
However also understand that just because someone dies after surgery, that doesnt necessarily mean the doctors and the hospital screwed up. And again, this was not just a routine tonsillectomy. She also had her adenoids removed; her uvula reduced and had nasal surgery for a deviated septum, all in an effort to alleviate her severe sleep apnea. Im sorry you think those facts are selective or only in support of the hospital. But those are the facts.
Any one of those surgeries has risks of complications, namely profuse bleeding (look it up for yourself if you dont believe me). And sometimes patients have unexpected complications; some patients dont react well to anesthesia, their blood doesnt clot normally, a blood clot breaks loose and a hemorrhage occurs, or the stress of surgery causes a heart attack; consider that even though she was young, Jahi was morbidly obese and we dont know anything about her medical history or any underlying conditions she might have had. She didnt die directly from blood loss BTW she died from a massive heart attack. However, hypovolemic shock, i.e. severe blood loss can cause a heart attack and very well might have in this case, however we dont know if by the time Jahi was given blood, if it wasnt already too late to save her or if the heart attack was the result of blood loss, how much blood loss there really was or if the heart attack was coincidental to the bleeding. FWIW I had a tonsillectomy when I was 18 and yes, there was a lot of post-op blood which lasted for days. It was nasty and disturbing but it was normal. And bleeding from the nose and mouth after also having a uvula reduced and nasal surgery would not be uncommon or abnormal. Of course copious amounts of blood, i.e. hemorrhaging, gushing blood would not be normal and if that was ignored and not responded to as a medical emergency, then yes, the hospital would IMO be a fault.
But sometimes, in rare cases the doctors and nurses do everything right by the book and the patient still dies. That is why, when you or I consent to having surgery, even minor outpatient surgery or even a tooth extraction, we sign a release form, one that lists all the possible risks and complications, including the risk of death.
Then this is this from a court document:
In the document, the family's attorney, Christopher Dolan, says "originally the surgery was uneventful and (Jahi) awoke from sedation in the recovery room speaking with her mother ... (and) asking for a popsicle."
The girl was brought to the intensive care unit, where her mother was told that caregivers would fix her IV, the document states. After 25-45 minutes, her mother found her sitting up in bed and bleeding from the mouth.
Another request for help from Jahi's family brought a larger container to collect blood, and, later, a suction device. Jahi's grandmother, herself a nurse, "made multiple requests, and then a loud demand, for a doctor."
Consider this inconvenient tidbit. Why was Jahi speaking to her mother and asking for a popsicle in the recovery room right after she came to? I would think that considering the surgery she just had, that she and her mother would have been given instructions, just as I was just for a tonsillectomy, not to attempt to speak and not to eat or drink anything for the first 12-24-hours. Did her mother give her a popsicle? Did she or the grandmother encourage her to speak? Did they overreact and get Jahi overly excited and afraid when they saw her bleeding? Was the initial amount of bleeding normal, but exasperated by perhaps the mother or grandmother who is a nurse but what kind of nurse; an RN, LPN or a nurses aid, got carried away with the suctioning and dislodged a blood clot and made matters worse?
Of course this is conjecture without all the facts in evidence, but if we are going to conjecture and jump to the conclusion that the hospital killed the poor girl, then it is also fair to conjecture and at least ask questions about the familys actions. No?
But no matter what happened and why and how, Jahi is very sadly dead. She isnt in a coma or in a PVS, her brain ceases to function on any level, there are no signs of any electrical activity in any part of her brain, even the brain stem, and there is no blood flow, her pupils are fixed and dilated, she does not breath on her own without the artificial respirator and all this has been confirmed by multiple tests performed by at least 3 neurologists over the course of several weeks. Her heart continues to beat, her body still feels warm to the touch, her muscles sometimes jerk and spasm but that does not mean she is alive.
Q: Is there any scientific basis for the family's belief that the girl is responding to the family, is aware of her surroundings, or could recover?
A: No, according to Nancy Berlinger, a bioethicist with The Hastings Center, a nonpartisan research institute devoted to health and medical issues.
"One of the things very confusing about cases like this is that the patient looks alive, the heart is beating, the body has a normal color ... the body feels warm," Berlinger said. "What is going on now is the maintenance of function by mechanical means."
Children's Hospital spokesman Sam Singer said Jahi's family also could be mistaking the movements they say she has made to an involuntary muscle reflex sometimes seen in brain-dead patients that doctors call the "Lazarus effect."
Q: How long can a person who is brain dead survive?
A: It's hard to know because in most cases families agree to suspend mechanical means of support, but it's safe to assume that a ventilator will not keep a patient's heart beating indefinitely, according to J. Randall Curtis, a professor of medicine and an intensive-care unit doctor at the University of Washington. The brain stem, the part that controls breathing, is no longer functioning in a brain-dead person. Although a ventilator can keep the heart and lungs working for a while, the organs will eventually shut down without input from the brain, Curtis said. Ventilated patients also are at risk of infection, he said.
"People's hearts have continued beating for a month sometimes, with the ventilator, but no one has ever been documented to be brain dead and come back from it," Curtis said.