A brain-dead California girl in deteriorating physical condition was released into her family's custody Sunday night, left Children's Hospital Oakland and was checked into an undisclosed care facility by the next morning, the family's attorney said.
Jahi McMath's body had “deteriorated so badly,” that her chances for survival seemed bleak, said attorney Christopher Dolan. “Right now,” Dolan said. “We don't know if she's going to make it.”
The 13-year-old Oakland girl entered Children's Hospital on Dec. 9 for tonsil, throat and nose surgery to correct sleep apnea and developed bleeding complications, which led to cardiac arrest. She was declared brain-dead on Dec. 12 and has been on a ventilator ever since. The hospital has maintained throughout the legal battle that Jahi will not recover.
Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, left the hospital with her daughter just before 8 p.m. in a “tense, but smooth” fashion that took between 45 minutes to an hour, Dolan said. The family received custody of her from the Alameda County Coroner's Office after the hospital had first relinquished Jahi to the coroner.
“The only thing I can equate it to is a hostage negotiation,” Dolan said. “As soon as we would get one obstacle cleared, another obstacle would appear.”
During a late Monday morning press conference, Dolan confirmed Jahi was now “safely where she needs to be,” in a facility where she's receiving nutritional support including potassium, minerals and hormones. She's also getting antibiotics to combat possible infection that Dolan said she may have suffered while at Children's Hospital.
Dolan said procedures deemed necessary for a facility to take Jahi were not yet performed, including feeding and tracheotomy tubes, because other physical issues arose after she left the hospital. He would not disclose what those issues were but said Jahi is still being cared for by medical staff at the new facility.
“She's in very bad shape,” he said. “What I can tell you is that those examinations show that her medical condition, separate from the brain issue, is not good.”
Jahi's uncle, Omari Sealey, referred to the transport of Jahi's body as an emotional roller coaster.
“My sister, she was crying,” Sealey said during a press conference late Monday morning. “I kissed her forehead and told her, 'I'll see you soon.'”
Sealey also said the family was relieved, grateful and happy Jahi's body had been moved and added that, although the family believes she is still alive, they will only come to terms with death if her other organs fail.
“We're not going to play God,” Sealey said. “If her heart stops beating while she's hooked to the ventilator, we can accept that.”
Dolan did not say how long it took to transport Jahi from the hospital to the facility. He told CNN on Sunday that secrecy was required because of unspecified threats against the family and on Monday compared it to “a covert operation.”
Dolan said they had two commitments from a facility on Sunday but by the afternoon one of them had dropped out.
In all, he said, five facilities came forward to accept Jahi — most of them dropping out, some said because they didn't want to deal with the “media circus.”
Although it was unclear where Jahi's body was taken, a New York facility with ties to the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network had previously said it would accept Jahi for long-term care and reiterated that in a statement to CNN on Sunday.
But at the New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, N.Y. on Monday, there was little information to indicate Jahi had been moved there for treatment overnight.
Office workers rushed a reporter out of the building quickly after arriving and refused to answer questions about whether the brain-dead teenage patient was being treated at the facility.
An employee, who did not identify herself, acknowledged that the treatment center was one of several locations that could have accepted Jahi. The woman said any statements issued by the care facility would be given by founder Allyson Scerri, who was not at the building this morning.
A phone call to Scerri was not immediately returned.
A hearing on Jahi's case is to set tomorrow in federal court and Dolan said the court could, at some point, move forward with issues he's raised including whether the American Disabilities Act was violated and whose right it is to determine medical care for a patient.
“The court may also say this has been rendered moot by the removal of Jahi from the hospital,” Dolan said. “It already is precedent setting (that) what we heard in Judge (Evelio) Grillo's courtroom was something that stopped the medical field in its tracks.”
On Friday, a negotiation supervised by Grillo — an Alameda County Superior Court judge, and agreed to by both the family and the hospital allows Jahi's mother to remove her daughter from the hospital under certain conditions.
Digital First Media Reporter Bianca Prieto contributed to this report.