Family Battles to Keep Girl on Life Support After Tonsillectomy Left Her Brain Dead

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Jahi McMath is a 13-year-old girl from Oakland, California. A relatively routine operation to have her tonsils removed did not go well for her. She now lays in a hospital bed, brain-dead and on life support. Her family and her doctors are in a legal wrangling over whether or not she should be taken off a ventilator.

On December 9th, Jahi had her tonsillectomy at Childrens’ Hospital Oakland. At first, everything seemed to have gone well. She was alert and even enjoying a Popsicle.

But 30 minutes later, things started to change for the worse. Being unable to talk, Jahi wrote notes to her mom saying that it felt like she was swallowing too much mucus and asking whether she would be OK. “I feel like I am choking,” she wrote – which was actually true. She was swallowing, and then choking on, her own blood.

Jahi was moved into an intensive-care unit and her parents were denied access to her for half an hour. When they were finally allowed to see her, they knew that something had gone terribly wrong.

The first thing they noticed was that there “was way too much blood,” said Sandy Chatman, Jahi’s grandmother.

When they kept asking if this was normal, some nurses replied “I don’t know”, and others “yes” – there was a lack of urgency and plenty of uncertainty, the family said.

Soon, Jahi had gone into cardiac arrest. Any subsequent treatments could not bring the girl back. A CT scan showed that two-thirds of her brain had swollen depriving it of oxygen.

“Now she is 100% mentally damaged,” said her uncle Omari Sealey, “medically dead.”

At the present, although the family wants to keep Jahi on life-support the hospital has argued that there was nothing that can be done for her and she should therefore be taken off the ventilator.

The legal drama still continues and the family is still waiting for answers.