A Mother’s Fight for a Christmas Miracle for Her Brain-Dead Teen

Nailah Winkfield, the mother of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, isn’t ready to give up on her daughter, whom physicians have declared brain-dead.   

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Nailah Winkfield and Omari Sealey, Jahi McMath's uncle, on CNN's The Lead

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Nailah Winkfield is a mother first. As a mother, she is fighting for her daughter's life, which doctors believe ended once she was declared brain-dead after tonsil surgery this month.

Winkfield isn't sure what the new court-appointed doctor will determine about her 13-year-old, Jahi McMath, but as her mother she plans to keep fighting.

"I'm her mother. I'm going to support her. It's my job to do it. Any mother would do it," Winkfield said in an exclusive interview with CNN's The Lead on Monday. "I just want her to have more time. There are so many stories of people waking up in her situation."

Doctors at Children's Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, Calif., have said that McMath won't wake up and therefore don't want Winkfield to have false hope.

"We have the deepest sympathy for Jahi's mother, who wishes her daughter was alive, but the ventilator cannot reverse the brain death that has occurred, and it would be wrong to give false hope that Jahi will ever come back to life," Dr. David Durand, the hospital's chief of pediatrics, said in a statement on Monday, CNN reports.

On Monday, a judge granted the family's wish to have the hospital stopped from making any decisions regarding discontinuing life support until Dec. 30 and also ordered that another doctor evaluate McMath and provide a second opinion. Dr. Paul Fisher, chief of pediatric neurology at Stanford Children's Hospital, will evaluate McMath and is expected to testify on the case in a closed hearing Tuesday, according to court documents, CNN reports.

"This is a very, very charged case. The stakes are very high. There is a young girl involved, and I think it would suit both parties well if you would speak with each other about how we are going to get through the next few days," Alameda Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said.

Winkfield told CNN that she's seen recent improvements in her daughter's condition and that a hospital monitor suggests her daughter is trying to breathe on her own, she said.

"They told me without your brain, you can't take your own breath," Winkfield said. "Well, she's trying, so that means something's working." Winkfield also said that she is haunted by the image of her daughter bleeding heavily after her surgery and that no one at the hospital has explained how this tragedy happened.

"They have not given me a reason yet of why she went into cardiac arrest. They haven't even given me a reason for her bleeding. They haven't given me a reason that they couldn't stop the bleeding," she said. "The only thing they keep pushing for me is to get her off their ventilator."

Durand said Monday that hospital officials are looking into the matter and are "committed to learning what led to this catastrophic outcome."

"We are sorry that Jahi McMath suffered tragic complications from her complex surgery," Durand said. "Our hearts go out to the grieving family and community about this sad situation. We look forward to the independent expert's evaluation of the patient."

Douglas Straus, an attorney for the hospital, told the judge that McMath is dead.

"This is obviously a tragic situation," he said. "A young lady has died, and no one takes that in a callous or uncaring manner, but she is dead."

Winkfield told CNN that she isn't ignoring what doctor's are saying; she just believes in her faith.

"I will not stop fighting for Jahi, because, like I said, I see signs of improvement," she said. "I really feel that my child needs time to heal."

Read more at CNN.

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