Letter from Nailah Winkfield
Read the letter in full below:
I am a mother. She is my daughter. I am alive. Despite what they say, she is alive. I can touch her, she is warm. She responds to my touch. I can love her – I can feel her love. When she was in my belly I fell in love with her. Her heartbeat for the beginning of her life was my heartbeat until God, through a miracle, sparked her heart into existence. Given time, I know he will spark her brain awake.
She is Jahi, a name that means known by many. If she knew about all this attention she would blush. She is very shy.
My daughter sits on life support. I feel like she is on death row. The clock is ticking — ticking down. Children’s Hospital Oakland says she is dead. She was not dead when I brought her here on December 9th for a routine tonsillectomy. I put her in their hands, now they want to wash their hands of her.
Jahi had an operation. I was told it went well. Then she started bleeding from her mouth. They gave me a cup for her to bleed into and said it was normal. She bled more and more. I couldn’t keep up with it. I asked for help, they gave me a bigger bucket. She bled more. They did not answer our pleas for a doctor. Her surgeon never came back. She had a heart attack and her heart stopped beating. Then they came — then. They shocked her back into life. Now they say she is dead.
Before the surgery she said I am scared mommy. I said why Jahi? She said I am afraid I won’t wake up. I told her it was going to be fine, it was a simple procedure. I should have listened to her.
She is on a respirator — with air she lives, her heart beats, her kidneys produce urine, she is warm and soft. They have been pressuring me to “pull the plug.” I can’t. I won’t. I can’t let them kill my baby a second time.
I am fighting for her life. Each breath the vent gives her one more chance to live and gets her one step closer to the hospital’s deadline. What a word. I never thought they could tell me, her mother, they were going to pull the plug, take her body to the morgue and send us home on Christmas while she lays in a freezer. She is warm now. I want my baby to be warm. We need time.
The Hospital says she is legally dead. That they can legally stop her breathing. I am not a lawyer. We called many in the middle of the night Monday as they were coming to unplug her Tuesday night. One answered the call. We stopped them. Every day is a struggle. We fight for Jahi. We have a temporary restraining order until Monday – then the Judge can say my baby is legally dead and Children’s can unplug her. It doesn’t matter what I say. I never thought I would have to go to court to get a hospital to treat my child.
Hold your children tight. Tell them you love them. I tell my daughter over and over. I know she can hear me. If she has any brain activity when they do the independent tests she will be kept alive. Pray for my daughter Jahi, pray that she will get better so they don’t kill her. Pray for me, mothers, that my love can bring her life once more.
Here is what you need to know:
1) Determination of Death. An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead. A determination of death must be made in accordance with accepted medical standards.
The Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) was passed in 1981. By the legal definition of death, she is dead.
Regardless of the UDDA which defined death in the United States Dr. Alan D Shewmon has compiled a list of life processes that brain-dead patients continues to exhibit:
- Cellular wastes continue to be eliminated, detoxified, and recycled.
- Body temperature is maintained, though at a lower than normal temperature and with the help of blankets.
- Wounds heal.
- Infections are fought by the body.
- Infections produce fever.
- Organs and tissues continue to function.
- Brain-dead pregnant women can gestate a fetus.
- Brain-dead children mature sexually and grow proportionately.
Now do you understand why the family is saying Jahi is not dead?
She still has life processes as Dr. Alan D Shewmon stated.
This debate should have happened long before now. There should have been clinical trials done, animal trials…there was none. The Definition of Death was changed from loss of circulatory and respiratory functions to harvest organs.
We are having that debate now but it is not enough.
Yes Jahi, your name means “known by many” and you are.