Jahi McMath was 13 years old in December 2013, when she had a routine surgery performed in California to remove her tonsils. She entered cardiac arrest after complications from the nose and throat surgery. After two hospital tests at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, she was deemed brain-dead, and doctors planned to have her taken off a ventilator.
However, her mother, Nailah Winkfield, refused to accept that her daughter was gone, even though she was suffering from irreversible brain damage. Winkfield, who is Christian, believed her daughter was still alive, because she saw Jahi’s toes and fingers move.
The Oakland mother flew her daughter to New Jersey, whose laws accommodate those whose religious beliefs don’t recognize brain death. There, her daughter lived on life support.
“Jahi wasn’t brain dead or any kind of dead,” Winkfield said. “She was a girl with a brain injury, and she deserved to be cared for like any other child who had a brain injury.”
Sadly, on June 22, Jahi was declared dead from excessive bleeding and liver failure, after an operation to treat an intestinal issue. The devoted mother quit her job, sold her Oakland home, and used savings, along with New Jersey’s Medicaid and donations, to pay for her daughter’s care.
“These last four and a half years have not been easy,” Winkfield told Fox News. “I can go to sleep knowing I did everything possible for my kid, and no one can take that away from me.”
Winkfield hopes that her long fight will inspire a call for changing the law, so that other religious families don’t have to fight to keep their children alive in states where brain death is considered a legal death.
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