"Jahi McMath is ALIVE."
The very first column I filed in 2014 exposed the plight of a beautiful young girl, the same age as my daughter, whom medical experts declared "brain dead" after a routine tonsillectomy gone wrong. Are you ready for the rest of the story?
Doctors told Jahi's mom, Nailah Winkfield, that her child's organs would "shut down" and her brain would "liquefy" if kept on life support. Hostile hospital administrators in Oakland moved to pull the plug on Jahi. Medical officials callously referred to Jahi as "dead, dead, dead" and dismissed the child as a "body." Smug critics mocked and hounded the family to give up and let go. Jahi's life, they concluded, was worthless.
But the experts and naysayers were wrong.
As Winkfield recently described in an open letter to supporters, "Jahi is physically stable. All of her organs are fully functional [and] her skin is flawless." After inspecting her latest medical records, two respected neurologists testified in sworn declarations that she is not brain dead. Video released by her family shows her moving her arm and foot on command. A recent MRI showed severe brain damage, "but it also shows brain structure and blood flow," Winkfield noted.
"I was told previously that it would be liquefied or have holes in it because it had been without blood flow and oxygen for 9 months," she recounted. "That is not the case with my daughter. Every person is different and every person heals differently."
One year after callous and overconfident members of the medical and media establishments wrote Jahi's life off, the now 14-year-old girl is surrounded by the love and care of her mom, dedicated medical professionals and vigilant advocates for life.
Lawyer Christopher Dolan continues to battle the state of California to reverse the "brain death" designation in court. Volunteers maintain a Facebook page to share updates on Jahi's progress. And with the help of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, Life Legal Defense, Angela Clemente & Associates, The Wrongful Death & Injury Institute, New Beginnings and others who helped transfer her away from death-wish docs in California, Jahi will mark Christmas this year at a long-term care facility in New Jersey.
Bobby Schindler, head of Terri's Network, told me this week that Jahi's family "has been blessed with countless numbers of well-wishers, letting the family know they are constantly praying for Jahi." The detractors and haters are still out there. But as Schindler observes, "Unfortunately, this is nothing new — my family experienced the same with [sister] Terri. In fact, it's been almost 10 years since Terri's death, and we continue to receive similar types of mean-spirited comments."
Thankfully for society's most vulnerable members who are medically dependent, disabled, incapacitated or potentially facing life-threatening situations, Bobby Schindler and Nailah Winkfield are keeping the faith. "Jahi's life is worth the fight," her mom insists. And that noble fight deserves far more support from those who've been sloganeering recently about how Lives Matter.
"The Bible tells us of Mary's great joy at Christ's conception and birth," Schindler reflects. "It also tells us of her great sadness at his unnatural suffering and death. This Christmas let us pray that God's will be done in 2015 for all his children — those in the womb and those judged not worthy of end of life care and protection."
In an age where suicide advocate Brittany Maynard earned widespread praise and admiration for giving up on life, Terri and Jahi's families stand as powerful seasonal reminders about my true heroes: those who fight tirelessly for the sanctity of life, no matter how hard the journey.