California Family Praying for a Miracle

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, December 18 2013 at 5:16 PM, Updated: Wed, December 18 2013 at 6:26 PM

It's something no family should ever have to face, the decision to take a child off life support. 

A routine procedure to remove tonsils took an unexpected turn and landed 13-year-old Jahi Mcmath on life support in an Oakland hospital.

"I do not want to bury my 13-year-old daughter who came in here to get a better quality of life. This is horrible this is a mother's worst nightmare," said Naila Winkfield, Jahi's mother.

Initially family members say the hospital was planning to take Jahi off life support, but at least for now, that's changed.

"Things are a little bit more at ease now that I know they're not gonna rush in and take Jahi off life support," said the girl's uncle, Omari Sealy.

Can Family Stop a Loved One from being Taken off Life Support?

However, according to recent tests, the girl is legally brain dead.

"Legally, medical professionals and hospitals are not required to provide treatment to someone who is dead," said Adrienne Goldberg who serves as a palliative care social worker and is Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee at Rogue Regional Medical Center. She is also involved in Choosing Options, Honoring Options (COHO) in Southern Oregon.

However, according to Goldberg, hospitals especially in the Rogue Valley don't immediately take people off life support, but they do their best to help families cope.

"While the family cannot stop the hospital from withdrawing care, the hospital does not rush into do that, but really wants to take care of a family so they can move forward," said Goldberg.

According to Goldberg, advances in technology have allowed doctors to keep people mechanically working. However if someone is diagnosed as legally brain dead, there's little chance for recovery, even if family keeps them on life support.

"We have an incredible ability in medicine to keep the mechanics going. But we are not keeping anyone who's brain is dead, alive. What we're doing is standing in the way of allowing the body to do what it naturally does in the dying process," Goldberg said.

Back down in Oakland, family members are holding out hope and praying for a miracle.

"Their medicine didn't work. Time to let God work and this is when prayers are important," said Sealy.

Family, friends and a community in Oakland prayed at a church for Jahi's recovery between 6-7pm on Wednesday evening.

The family has also reportedly put out an international plea, asking others to pray and send their good thoughts as well.

Preparing for Death

Goldberg said oftentimes, preparing for death is hard but necessary. She said adults can fill out an advance directive and talk to family about what they would like to do when the time comes.

Another issue to think about is whether or not organ donation is on the table.

For more information on advance directives and other documents visit www.cohoroguevalley.org 

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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