Family, Friends Pray for Girl Declared Brain Dead After Tonsillectomy

By Jean Elle and Lisa Fernandez
|  Thursday, Dec 19, 2013  |  Updated 11:56 AM EDT
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Hundreds of family, friends and other supporters attended the service at Paradise Baptist Church in Oakland for 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who had her tonsils removed on Dec. 9 and was declared brain dead three days later. Jean Elle reports.

Hundreds of family, friends and other supporters attended the service at Paradise Baptist Church in Oakland for 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who had her tonsils removed on Dec. 9 and was declared brain dead three days later. Jean Elle reports.

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The family of an Oakland 8th grader declared "brain dead" following a tonsillectomy held a prayer vigil for the teen on Wednesday, one day after two tests showed no signs of life.

Hundreds of family, friends and other supporters attended the service at Paradise Baptist Church in Oakland for 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who had her tonsils removed on Dec. 9 and was declared brain dead three days later.

After the emotional prayer service, Jahi's mother, Latasha "Naila" Winkfield, urged supporters to keep praying for a miracle.

"Please don't give up on my baby because she will wake up," Winkfield said. "I don't have any doubt she will wake up. Doctors don't know. God has the final say."

Jahi is on a ventalator at Children's Hospital Oakland.

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Family Relieved Hospital Keeps Oakland Girl on Life Support

A lawyer for a family whose 13-year-old was declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy to cure her sleep apnea filed an "urgent" request seeking to block the hospital from further action Tuesday, the same day employees planned to take the girl off life support. Jean Elle reports.

Hospital Temporarily Grants Request to Keep Oakland Girl on Life Support

A lawyer for a family whose 13-year-old was declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy to cure her sleep apnea filed an "urgent" request seeking to block the hospital from further action Tuesday, the same day employees planned to take the girl off life support. Cheryl Hurd reports.
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Her family has been holding court outside Children's Hospital for the last several days, taking to the media to make their battle public to keep Jahi on life support. Her heart is still beating, though two EEG tests on Tuesday showed no signs of life, according to her family. They say she seemed fine after her initial surgery, but ended up coughing up blood about 30 minutes later and suffered a cardiac arrest. She has not been conscious since.

Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, called attorney Chris Dolan earlier this week, who sent a "cease and desist" letter to Children's Hospital, telling the top staff that they had an "irreconcilable conflict of interest" in determining whether Jahi should be taken off life support. On Tuesday, hospital officials agreed, at least temporarily, to heed the family's request. Dolan told NBC Bay Area that "there is no established time table now," but that doctors will monitor her condition and "reassess and reevaluate in several days."

MORE: "Urgent" Request to Keep 8th Grader Jahi McMath on Life Support After Tonsillectomy

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Dolan also said the hospital is refusing to hand over medical records to the family.

In response, Consumer Watchdog on Wednesday called on the California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley and California Medical Board President Sharon Levine to take over the investigation into the case.

In a statement, the hospital said, "As a matter of policy, we do not release the entire medical record while the patient is in the hospital, since it is a document in continuous use. All families have the right to review the record while the patient is in the hospital, and have access to the entire record after the hospitalization has ended."

Furthermore, the hospital said it is prevented from commenting by federal laws that restrict doctors from speaking about their patients' medical history without consent. Dr. David Durand, chief of pediatrics, stated in an email that " unfortunately, we have not been authorized by the family to share information with the public about this matter.  Consequently, we are not able to correct misperceptions created about this sad situation."

Jahi had the tonsillectomy to help her with sleep apnea, the family has said, but has never disclosed more.

MORE: Brain Dead Oakland Teen's Family Seeking Mayor's Help

Jahi's family is hoping the prayers will help. Despite a "brain dead" diagnosis, the 8th grader's heart continues to beat. And that gives Jahi's God-fearing family something to hang onto.

"I can't wait to go back to the hospital and tell Jahi how many people prayed for her," Winkfield said. "And they believe she will get up."

NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.

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