By Mark Ellis
The young girl declared brain dead following complications of tonsil surgery was moved from Children’s Hospital in Oakland to an undisclosed location after her family fought for her life. No one knows what will happen to 13-year-old Jahi, but one man offers hope to her family.
“They said I was a vegetable and 80 percent of my brain was dead,” says Randall Hall, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2000 and lapsed into a persistent vegetative state for two years.
Over time, his body atrophied and curled into a fetal position. Hooked up to breathing and feeding machines, with no response to sounds or movement, doctors recommended they remove life support.
While Hall’s father sided with the doctors, his mother and older brother refused to remove his breathing and feeding tubes. They thought they saw occasional flashes of recognition in Randall’s eyes that offered hope.
In January 2002, doctors replaced a portion of Randall’s skull to relieve pressure on his brain. A month after the surgery, Hall began to awaken from the coma over a two-week period.
But Hall doesn’t credit the surgeons or other therapies for his survival. He credits the Great Physician – who still has the power to heal.
“I was going to hell if I died, but God saved my life,” Hall declares. “No human saved my life,” he says. “God allowed me to die for two years so He could save my life. Doctors can only do so much – they’re not gods.”
Coming out of the coma did not mean a quick return to normality. “When I woke up I was like a newborn, mentally,” he notes. “My brain was washed clean. I cried for the first year.” The second year, his mental and emotional maturity resembled a five or six-year-old. By the third year, he was like an adolescent. Over time, his memory returned and he believes it is fully restored today.
The neurologist cautioned the family that even if he came out of the coma, it was unlikely he would walk or talk again. He is doing both today — and driving on his own car — something no one thought possible.
“My surgeons don’t understand. Usually there is no recovery from a coma,” he notes. “They don’t know what God can do.”
Children’s Hospital released Jahi McMath on Sunday to the Alameda County coroner, who then discharged her to her mother’s custody, according to Dr. David Durand, the hospital’s chief of pediatrics.
Like the Terri Schiavo case, Jahi’s condition drew national attention and sparked debate as an intense court battle ensued between devastated family members trying to keep her on a ventilator and doctors who were convinced she was already dead.
“No amount of prayer, no amount of hope, no amount of any type of medical procedure will bring her back,” said Sam Singer, a spokesperson for Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Paul Fisher, chief of pediatric neurology at Stanford Children’s Hospital, evaluated Jahi and found her pupils were completely dilated and unresponsive to light and she did not respond to a range of powerful stimuli. His report also says Jahi showed no sign of breathing on her own after a ventilator was removed. The report stated her heart was beating solely due to the mechanical ventilator.
An imaging test showed no blood flow to the young girl’s brain, while another showed no sign of electrical activity. “Overall, unfortunate circumstances in 13-year-old with known, irreversible brain injury and now complete absence of cerebral function and complete absence of brainstem function, child meets all criteria for brain death, by professional societies and state of California,” Fisher concluded.
Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, is a strong Christian, and says she sees reason for hope.
She is hoping and praying for a miracle – along with many others in the Christian community.
Amazingly, Randall Hall is thankful for the health crisis he endured — even for his coma. “Before the coma I denied Jesus. I heard His voice in the coma. He taught me the real meaning of love. Now I’m His.”