Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
For the love of Jahi, the living testimony of Nailah Winkfield
By Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
February 7, 2014

Nailah Winkfield's daughter, thirteen year-old Jahi McMath, suffered from pediatric sleep apnea. On December 9, 2013 Jahi was admitted into Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland where she underwent tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

Post-op, Jahi asked for a Popsicle and stated her throat hurt. Most assuredly, Nailah was relieved, knowing her beloved Jahi was doing well. Then there was a sudden, dreadful turn of events; Jahi was bleeding. That continued until Jahi's heart stopped.

Nailah was informed, during resuscitation, that Jahi lost oxygen to her brain causing brain damage. The brain damage was said to have progressed and on Tuesday, December 10th, Nailah and family members were informed Jahi was "brain dead." On Thursday, December 12th, Jahi was declared "medically" and "legally" dead. Nailah refused organ donation from Jahi and thus began her fight for Jahi's life, ironically, after her daughter's legal certification of death!

Nailah would plead for continued treatment of Jahi. Although on a ventilator, Nailah witnessed her daughter's vital signs on the monitor moving in unison with rhythmic procession across the screen as Jahi's heart continued to beat. Jahi's heart has beat more than 3 million times since her surgery. The brain is not necessary for the heart to beat.

Nailah would continue to hold Jahi, embracing the warmth of her daughter, her living Jahi. Nailah would pray for healing and while clinging to her faith, the hope of Jahi's recovery remained to be the existence of Jahi's life.

Although the doctors and hospital administrators would deny Jahi ongoing necessary medical treatments, Nailah would not relent. Nailah continued to fight for Jahi's life and a legal battle ensued for stay of Jahi's execution. Doctors, the hospital administrator, the hospital's lawyer, spokesperson and consulting physician persisted in their efforts to remove Jahi from the life-sustaining ventilator. Jahi was denied nutrition other than sugar water and salt.

With Nailah's battle having been made public, she would endure the slanderous comments and hurtful insults hurled from within and outside the hospital by the hospital administration, personnel and the public. Nevertheless, for the love of Jahi, Nailah persisted. Nailah appreciates all the supporting and loving comments. However, others are like the children's rhyme, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me."

Many negative comments have been written about Nailah and Jahi. Many can be excused simply because they have limited knowledge. Yet some, as they propagate their agenda, seem to be trying to hurt, or at best, seem insensitive to Nailah and Jahi as persons. After a video surfaced showing Jahi's foot moving when touched with an ice cube, comments expressed disbelief and denial whether it was factually Jahi's foot and whether it was a recent recording. As someone who has seen Jahi's foot multiple times, it appears to be Jahi's foot, and it is unlikely that it was before Jahi left Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland.

Yet Jahi was hurt by not getting adequate nutrition for more than 3 weeks after her surgery. The only treatments Jahi was provided was the ventilator, sugar and salt in the IV, and a medication to reduce excessive loss of water. No protein, no fat, and no vitamins for more than 3 weeks! Jahi was not given any therapeutic help before escaping from the clutches of those determined not to allow her to live and thrive.

Nailah is a mother whose love transcends medical terminology, legal technicalities, monetary means, public opinion and any form of social persuasion thereof. Nailah's commitment to protect and preserve the life of her daughter, Jahi, demonstrates her love. Nailah holds dear her daughter who was bestowed to her by God, her Creator. Nailah is witness to God's miracle, her precious daughter, Jahi.

We are blessed to observe this mother's gallant fight for her daughter's life and her continued love and nurturing. You see, in Nailah we are witness to God's boundless love, mercy and grace in action.

Jahi continues to live because God says yes and Jahi receives much love from her mother, grandmother and other relatives. Yes, we are grateful for every person who has helped Jahi to be treated as a child of God and daughter of Nailah, who deeply loves her daughter, Jahi.

(Mrs. Bernice Jones assisted in writing this.)

Paul A. Byrne, M.D.

© Paul A. Byrne, M.D.


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Paul A. Byrne, M.D.

Dr. Paul A. Byrne is a Board Certified Neonatologist and Pediatrician. He is the Founder of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, MO. He is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at University of Toledo, College of Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Fellowship of Catholic Scholars... (more)


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