California 13-year-old 'brain dead' after tonsil surgery - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

California 13-year-old 'brain dead' after tonsil surgery

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Our NBC news partners at the NBC Bay Area are reporting the family of an Oakland 13-year-old girl is demanding answers about how a routine procedure to help fix her sleep apnea turned tragic when the 8th grader was declared brain dead three days after having her tonsils removed.

Moments after waking up from a tonsillectomy on Dec. 9, Jahi McMath was talking with her family and asking for a popsicle. Thirty minutes later she was choking on her own blood and went into cardiac arrest in the Oakland Children's HospitalIntensive Care Unit, according to her relatives. She was declared "brain dead" on Dec. 12, her family said.

On Monday morning, Jahi's mother, stepfather uncle and grandmother planned to meet again with doctors to find out more information and to demand that the hospital conduct an investigation into what happened to the E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts student known for her bubbly spirit and wide-tooth grin.

Her family has been told that Jahi is now considered a "coroner's case," though they are vehemently against taking her off life support. Her stepfather, Marvin Winkfield, said the family is feeling pressured to say their final goodbyes, when the girl's heart is beating and they are not ready to let her go.

"My child was fine before I brought her here," Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, said outside the hospital Monday morning. "I don't want to bury my 13-year-old who came here for a better quality of life. This is horrible. I will not leave without my daughter. This is a mother's worst nightmare."

Jahi's uncle, Omar Sealey, 27, said the family believes "an error was committed by the hospital, either before, during, or after surgery. I absolutely believe that somewhere along the way, there was a protocol that wasn't followed, or there was a surgical error."

A spokeswoman for the hospital said staff is "currently reviewing the case and we do not have enough information to make any further statements at this time. "

"We are very sad about her condition and our hearts go out to her family," spokeswoman Melinda Krigel said in an email.

Sealey provided a rough timeline of what happened after Jahi's tonsils were removed a week ago. After she asked for a popsicle, it became immediately clear that something was wrong.

"She wasn't able to talk, and she started to write notes to her mother saying I'm swallowing too much mucus, mom – am I OK? Mom – I feel like I'm choking," Sealey recalled. "And she began to write these notes because she couldn't talk because there was so much blood – it wasn't mucus – it was blood. But my sister, the mother, was too afraid to let her know that it was blood and not mucus."

He said the scene was gruesome: "She was coughing up buckets of blood."

At the same time, Sealey said it appeared to the family as though the nursing staff had vanished during what seemed to be a shift change. In the family's mind, there didn't seem to be enough hospital staff in the room to help. The family started suctioning blood themselves; Jahi's grandmother, Sandra Chatman, is a nurse at another hospital.

"A 13-year-old should not have to suction herself," Sealey said. "She had to use a suction machine to suction her own blood. Her mother and stepfather had to suction out her blood at points, none of them work for this hospital."

The family hasn't left Jahi's side since the surgery. They are making sure she is comfortable and playing her favorite songs to her on her iPod.

"My little girl in there, my little niece, is in there with her own heartbeat, which lets me know that she is alive,"  Sealey told NBC Bay Area.

Her family is continuing to pray for her recovery.

"We've had a lot of supporters here," Sealey said. "There's been lots and lots of prayers, lots of faith, lots of belief. And everyone's spirits are strong right now. We don't want them taking her off life support; we are a family of God, and we do honestly believe that she will get up."

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