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Brain-dead teen to remain on life support pending appeal by family

The family of a 13-year-old girl declared brain dead by three doctors received an extension from a judge on Monday to keep the 8th-grader on life support until Jan. 7.

Courtesy of McMath Family and Omari Sealey via AP

Jahi McMath,13, had her tonsils removed on Dec. 9 and was declared brain dead three days later.

With an hour to spare, Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo reinstated a restraining order preventing an Oakland, Calif., hospital from removing Jahi McMath from life support at 5 p.m. PT (8 p.m. ET) on Monday.

"We are hopeful that one of these actions will forestall the hospital's rush to extinguish Jahi's chance at life," said McMath's uncle, Omari Sealey.

McMath underwent a tonsillectomy and other operations to alleviate her sleep apnea on Dec. 9. She started bleeding profusely and went into cardiac arrest shortly after.

The young girl’s family has been in a legal battle with Children’s Hospital in Oakland since doctors at the hospital declared her brain dead three days later.

The family already had won a restraining order preventing doctors from removing the girl from a ventilator keeping her alive, but Grillo revoked her order Tuesday after hearing testimony from an independent physician who said McMath met “all criteria for brain death," according to NBC Bay Area.

Grillo said in that ruling that Children’s Hospital could remove Jahi from life support unless the family filed a formal appeal, which they did on Monday.

McMath’s parents have insisted that their daughter is alive, regardless of doctors’ opinions that her condition is irreversible.

"I would probably need my child's heart to stop to show me that she was dead. Her heart was still beating, so there's still life there," McMath's mother, Nailah Winfield told the Associated Press on Friday.

But David Durand, chief of pediatrics at Children's Hospital, said administrators did “not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice.”

Stephen Lam / Reuters file

Omari Sealey, left, uncle of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, and Sandra Chatman, grandmother of McMath speak to members of the media after a court hearing in Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 24.

In efforts to keep Children’s Hospital from removing the girl from the machine that was supporting her basic life functions, her family tried to move her to two other facilities in California. But doctors at both facilities refused to treat someone who had been declared dead.

But Sealey, the girl's uncle, said Monday that an unidentified hospital in New York had agreed to admit Jahi and on Monday, the family was organizing for an air ambulance to transfer the teen across the country.

On Friday Winfield wrote on a fundraising page, “My family and I are still striving to find a location that will accept her in her current condition … Let us pray that some one (sic) will have the heart to accept her despite what Children's Hospital says. So that we can get her air lifted away from this place as soon as possible.” On Monday, donors had contributed over $25,000 to Jahi’s cause.