The family of Jahi McMath is attempting to raise money to help pay for the cost of airlifting the brain-dead 13-year-old from the Oakland hospital where she has been since Dec. 9 to one of two facilities that have offered to care for the teen indefinitely.
Omari Sealey, Jahi's uncle, said in a statement Saturday that "progress was being made" and that two facilities are being considered for Jahi: one in Southern California and one in New York.
"We are optimistic but are feeling ever anxious as the deadline of 5 p.m. on Monday approaches," he said in the joint statement by the family.
Sealey said that on Friday, the family; their attorney, Christopher Dolan; and the attorney for Children's Hospital Oakland had a conference call with one of the facilities to prove Jahi could be accepted there. The family said they are withholding identifying the facilities' names to ensure the privacy of patients and to not interfere with Jahi's potential transfer, and asked Children's Hospital to respect those wishes.
Sam Singer, a public relations expert hired by the hospital, said despite the family's reports, the hospital has not heard from either the McMath family or Dolan in more than 24 hours about any progress on transferring Jahi. He said the medical director of the Southern California facility was supposed to call the family back and Dolan would contact Children's Hospital, but that has not happened.
"Our hearts go out to the family, that is not what is in question," Singer said. "But it is wrong of (Dolan) to create false impressions that brain dead is not dead. It is dead.
"The family has been told by doctors and by a judge that Jahi McMath is dead. And that is very sad, but there has to be some recognition that the situation is not going to change."
On Friday, Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield, created the "Jahi McMath Fund" on the fundraising website Go Fund Me.
On the site, Winkfield writes: "I am raising money for my daughter Jahi McMath so that she can be airlifted to a hospital out of state. Her insurance does not cover it and Children's Hospital is going to remove her off life support if can't get her out of this hospital."
In the family's lengthy letter released Saturday, they addressed the polarizing debate on life and death that Jahi's case has stirred and acknowledged they have many critics, as well as supporters. The family said they never intended to cause such a rousing discussion, but that Jahi's family stands by their religious conviction and their right to decide what happens to Jahi either in life or in death.
"People think we are naive about what the future holds for Jahi and our family. We are not ignorant," the family said. "We understand that Jahi has suffered a tragic and perhaps irreversible catastrophic injury to her brain. We also understand that it should never of happened and we believe that Children's is responsible. We acknowledge that the odds are stacked against us."
Jahi underwent tonsil surgery and two other procedures to remove tissue from her nose and throat in order to treat her sleep apnea. Complications following the operation resulted in loss of all brain function, according to six doctors who evaluated her. Jahi has been on a ventilator at Children's Hospital ever since.
So far the fund has raised almost $5,000 from 174 donors. The goal is to raise $20,000. Some donors have left messages on the site saying their prayers are with the family and donations seem to be coming from all over the country, with one woman saying she was from New Mexico. Many on the site urged Winkfield to keep fighting, saying miracles can happen.
The family faces a court-ordered 5 p.m. Monday deadline to pull Jahi off her ventilator at Children's Hospital. Jahi's family does not accept that she is dead and has been scrambling to find a long-term care facility. But hospital officials said Friday while it would send the girl to such a facility it wouldn't install a trachea or gastric feeding tube necessary for most facilities to accept her.
Other experts say it might be hard for the family to find any doctor to perform the procedures on Jahi with her brain-dead status.
"We know the darkness that likely lays ahead for us, for Jahi. We have heard the criticisms that we are harming Jahi and we need to just let go," Sealey said. "We are working every minute to preserve our rights and Jahi's existence. It is our fundamental, constitutional right as it would be yours should this horror ever befall you; something I do not wish on anyone, ever."
To view the fundraising page, go to www.gofundme.com/jahi-mcmath.