A California judge declined on Tuesday a mother's petition to keep her 13-year-old daughter on life support at Children's Hospital Oakland. Nailah Winkfield, mother of Jahi McMath, is praying for a miracle.
The Children's Hospital must keep McMath alive until 5 p.m. Dec. 30, Alameda County Judge Evelio Grillo ruled. Unless a higher court intervenes, the hospital will stop providing medical care to the young girl, who suffered complications after her tonsils were removed.
McMath was declared brain-dead on Dec. 12 by doctors who wanted to remove her from the ventilator. The same conclusion was made by court-appointed doctor Paul Fisher, chief of neurology at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.
But McMath's family believes she is still alive and can recover.
In an open letter on Saturday, Winkfield wrote: "I am a mother. She is my daughter. I am alive. Despite what they say, she is alive. I can touch her, she is warm. She responds to my touch. I can love her - I can feel her love.
"She is on a respirator - with air she lives, her heart beats, her kidneys produce urine, she is warm and soft. They have been pressuring me to 'pull the plug.' I can't. I won't. I can't let them kill my baby a second time."
McMath had surgery on Dec. 9 to remove her tonsils and adenoids. Her uncle, Omari Sealey, told CNN on Monday that doctors had recommended the procedure to treat the eighth grader's sleep apnea, weight gain, short attention span and uncontrolled urination.
Though she seemed fine coming out of surgery, the young girl began bleeding from her nose and mouth and went into cardiac arrest.
The mother recalled in her letter: "They gave me a cup for her to bleed into and said it was normal. She bled more and more. I couldn't keep up with it. I asked for help, they gave me a bigger bucket. She bled more. They did not answer our pleas for a doctor. Her surgeon never came back. She had a heart attack and her heart stopped beating. Then they came- then. They shocked her back into life. Now they say she is dead."
The mother was granted a restraining order last week after the hospital tried to pull the plug.
The Children's Hospital maintained in court documents that "McMath is deceased according to California law if she has sustained 'irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.'" Three doctors have now said she is legally brain dead and thus the hospital is seeking to stop treatment.
"Because Ms. McMath is dead, practically and legally, there is no course of medical treatment to continue or discontinue; there is nothing to which the family's consent is applicable," it contended.
"To be blunt, Children's is currently merely preserving Ms. McMath's body from the natural post-mortem course of events. There is no legal, ethical or moral requirement that it continue to do so or that the family consent in the decision to stop doing so."
The hospital has expressed its condolences to the family and says it is "committed to learning what led to this catastrophic outcome."
"We have the deepest sympathy for Jahi's mother who wishes her daughter was alive; but the ventilator cannot reverse the brain death that has occurred and it would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life."
The family has not yet indicated whether it will appeal Tuesday's ruling.
Sealey told the media that there's "still time for a miracle."
"Christmas is tomorrow. It would be great if she woke up," he said. "Prayers are more important than ever before."