Nailah Winkfield second from left) stands with her attorney, brother and husband and discusses the complicated life and death of her daughter Jahi McMath.

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'I Just Feel Kind Of Lost,' Says Mother Of Jahi McMath

Teen, Declared Brain Dead Years Ago, Will Be Buried On Friday

July 03, 2018 - 8:44 pm

By Carrie Hodousek

The family of an Oakland teenage girl has received permission to bury her in the midst of a long-running legal battle surrounding her death.

Jahi McMath will be laid to rest in a funeral service at the Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland on Friday at 11 a.m., her family announced on Tuesday. The service is open to the public, but no video cameras will be permited. 

“Everything I did revolved around Jahi, so right now I just feel kind of lost. I just want to paint her nails. I want to comb her hair, brush her teeth and talk to her,” her mother Nailah Winkfield said as she wiped away tears. “I can’t do that no more.”

The family told reporters during a Tuesday press conference at their attorney's office in San Francisco that Jahi died June 22, 2018 at the age of 17. She and her family had traveled through a complex medical and legal maze that began when complications arose from routine surgery. 

Jahi was 13 years old when she underwent a procedure on her tonsils on December 9, 2013 at the Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. The surgery was meant to treat a pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that made her stop breathing in her sleep and caused other medical issues. After the operation to remove her tonsils, the family said Jahi was alert and talking to doctors. Yet she went into intensive care when she started to bleed and suffered cardiac arrest. She was declared brain-dead on December 12, 2013.

Soon after that declaration, the hospital sought to remove Jahi from a ventilator. Her relatives fought to keep her hooked up saying she continued to show signs of life. 

Jahi was released from the hospital in 2014. Winkfield moved her daughter to New Jersey for continued medical care.

“My child was never dead. She was always alive. I thank God for the state of New Jersey realized that and that’s why she has a whole other death certificate,” Winkfield said.

On Tuesday, Winkfield’s attorney, Chris Dolan, presented two death certificates. One from Alameda County that cliams that Jahi died December 12, 2013. The other certificate, from New Jersey, indicates the teen died June 22, 2018.

“This death certificate was never completed,” Dolan said of the Alameda County document. “It’s a death certificate, which we argue, is invalid.”

Dolan said the family will be allowed to bury Jahi, but quesitons remain over which death certificate accurately portrays the nature, manner and date of her death. 

“I have no regrets. Not one,” Winkfield said. “The only regret I ever had was bringing her to the hospital to get her tonsils removed.”

Winkfield, surrounded by her husband and brother, said she will continue to fight for what legally and ethically constitutes as death. She said her daughter forced the world to rethink the issue of brain death.

“My child is powerful,” she said.