OAKLAND -- The family fighting to keep a brain-dead 13-year-old girl on medical support through Christmas blasted administrators at Children's Hospital Oakland on Thursday evening, saying that hospital officials told them in a private meeting that the girl had to be taken off her ventilator "quickly."
"They said, 'What don't you understand?' She is dead, dead, dead,'" said Omari Sealey, the uncle of Jahi McMath, the Oakland teen who has been kept alive by machines since complications from a tonsil surgery last week in a case that has brought national attention and prayers from social media users around the world. "They just kept referring to her as 'a body.'"
The family's attorney, Christopher Dolan, said he will head to court on Friday morning to seek an injunction to halt any hospital intervention. Hospital officials have not given a timeline to remove the girl from the ventilator, he added
A hospital spokeswoman refused to directly address the meeting or the hospital's care or treatment of Jahi, but released a statement late Thursday evening imploring the family to allow the hospital to openly discuss Jahi's case. Hospital officials have repeatedly cited state and federal medical privacy laws in declining to comment.
"We implore the family to allow the hospital to openly discuss what has occurred and to give us the necessary legal permission -- which it has been withholding -- that would bring clarity, and we believe, some measure of closure and deeper understanding of this medical case," Chief of Pediatrics David Durand said in the statement.
Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, fought through tears as she spoke to reporters after the meeting Thursday evening.
"Can't we have her for Christmas?" Jahi's mother said to doctors. "I told them, 'You better not take my child off that machine. You do not have my permission.'"
Dolan and family members met with hospital officials Thursday evening to request that Jahi be kept on the ventilator at least until after the holidays, a request administrators would not agree to honor. Jahi was declared brain dead on Dec. 12, after complications from a Dec. 9 tonsil surgery.
Family members also said that they had asked the hospital for permission to bring their own doctors in to examine the girl; administrators denied that request, saying again that the girl was dead, and there would be no reason to do so.
"They keep saying she is 'dead, dead, dead' and I am hoping the courts will say 'no, no, no,'" Dolan said in a Thursday night news conference. "We just saw her; she is a beautiful young lady. She responds to her mother's touch. She is warm."
When asked why Dolan thought the hospital was insistent on taking Jahi off the ventilator, he answered, "I don't think they like all (the reporters) out here."
On Thursday, Dolan again repeated a family demand that they be given full access to Jahi's medical records. Hospital officials said Wednesday that the girl's family had the right to see her records at any time but that the entire record would not be released to them until the hospitalization ends.
Dolan also noted that the family is very grateful for the efforts of hospital staff, and that they are angry only with the decisions being made by top hospital administrators.
"It is important (the family) conveys that they know there are very good people in that hospital right now who are caring for Jahi, bathing her, feeding her," Dolan said. "This is not a condemnation of those who are keeping her alive.
"They are deeply angered that people in administration are trying to end her life because to them she is no longer alive."
Jahi had tonsil surgery to help her with sleep apnea, weight gain and other health problems and began bleeding from her nose and mouth and experienced cardiac arrest later that night.
The family, however, is hoping for "divine intervention" and is asking the world to pray for the girl.
"Their faith is strong, and they need time to allow prayer to take place and to, hopefully, work to heal Jahi," Dolan said earlier.
He added that he has been contacted by doctors who claim there are differing definitions of "brain dead"; the family wants to keep her on life support in hopes that her massive brain swelling will lessen and brain activity tests can be repeated.
Dolan said the family understands the hospital's position that Jahi is dead and that there is no medical benefit from treating a dead person. However, they disagree with the hospital's concept and determination of death, and say they have been inspired by accounts of patients who had been deemed "beyond hope" only to recover completely.
The family has requested that all life support and sustaining efforts to be undertaken including nutrition, hydration, skin care, medicinal management, oxygen and prophylactic antibiotics as needed.
The meeting between the family and hospital officials was their second meeting this week; the two sides met on Monday.
"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Jahi McMath. This is a tragic situation.
We want the public to know that the family has not permitted us to discuss the medical situation. We are unable -- without the family's permission -- to talk about the medical procedure, background or any of the details that are a part of this tragedy. Details that would provide transparency, openness and provide answers to the public about this situation.
We implore the family to allow the hospital to openly discuss what has occurred and to give us the necessary legal permission -- which it has been withholding -- that would bring clarity, and we believe, some measure of closure and deeper understanding of this medical case.
Many of the statements made by the family and its attorney must be taken in the context that they will not allow CHO to discuss the case and provide the information necessary for there to be a fuller understanding."
David Durand, M.D.
Chief of Pediatrics
Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland