For weeks, the nation has watched as the family of Jahi McMath has given press conference after press conference.
The story is a tragic one. A young girl undergoes a “routine tonsillectomy” at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. During the first evening post-op it was reported that “blood started pouring out of her nose and mouth.” After being resuscitated and receiving four transfusions, she remained unconscious when it was determined there was swelling in her brain. Three days after her surgery, she was declared brain dead.
Sympathy poured out for the family and for the young girl. Her family did not want her to be taken off of the ventilator prior to Christmas. But then the story continued. Court orders were filed and despite being examined by multiple physicians, not all affiliated with Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, all of whom declared her brain dead, Jahi’s family continued to declare that she was alive, ask for prayers and fight for her to be kept on the ventilator.
Jahi is no longer a resident of Children’s Hospital. She was released to the coroner, who then released her to her mother, and was then taken to an undisclosed facility to “heal”.
While tragic for the McMath family, there’s another tragedy in this story and that’s the negative publicity for Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland.
As the family tweets about being “free” from Children’s, and the family lawyer talks about all that Children’s withheld from Jahi, a hospital and it’s staff is bound by laws, forced to stay silent as a smear campaign and likely a lawsuit surround them.
As the mother of a developmentally delayed child, I’ve spent more time than I’d like within the walls of Children’s Hospital.
Imagine bringing your one year old in for a flu shot and leaving the pediatrician’s office with the news that your toddler’s head size had jumped so significantly that there was suspicion of a brain tumor. It happened to us, and our MRI was scheduled a week later at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. It was the longest week imaginable. We stayed home. I cried when the kids went to bed, I googled (not good), I wanted to be alone, and I spent seven days barely going through the motions.
Fast forward to the day of the MRI when my husband and I took a fasting and grouchy one year old to Children’s Hospital. Although he had suffered from a cold the week prior and had greatly improved, when he was examined upon arrival, he was deemed too congested to be safely placed under anesthesia. While grateful for the caution of the staff, I was devastated.
The strain of the wait had taken its toll, and as I dissolved into a puddle and my husband sat with his head in his hands, we were given another option. If he did truly have a brain tumor, they wanted to move quickly. While it wouldn’t be a complete scan, we had the choice to place him in the MRI tube awake with me on top of him holding him down. We would not be able to see everything during the scan, but if a mass was there, it would be seen. While regardless we would have to return for the complete scan, they were giving our family knowledge. And at that point, that was a huge gift to our family.
I would have done anything.
Minutes later, my wide awake one year old was restrained and strapped onto a wooden board. With a cage over his face, they attached an angled mirror to it allowing his eyes to meet mine during the procedure. As I started to cry, the nurses surrounding the MRI machine hugged me and told me to be strong, that he needed to look at me to stay calm and then they slid my son and I into a pediatric-sized MRI tube.
It was loud. And tight. And his sobbing eyes locked onto mine for six minutes as I laid over him and tried to smile and tell him everything was going to be okay.
And it was. By the time we had been slid out and his restraints had been removed, the doctors were telling us that while we did need to come back, his initial scan had come back clear. They took care of our son, but they also took care of our family.
When you have a child who is not well, there is a strength to be found within yourself. You will experience sights and sounds that will be imprinted in your memory forever. And for me, many of these occurrences have happened at this hospital.
I’ve sat and listened to the sound of an MRI machine beep for over an hour taking photos of my son’s brain searching for a tumor alongside parents of a seventeen-year-old who were waiting to see how far his cancer had spread.
I’ve waited for my son to come out of surgery watching a little girl play who had come in to get the port in her heart checked.
I sang along with tears in my eyes as four nurses, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist all wearing surgical masks sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to try to comfort my son as he fought and squirmed against being put under before a surgery.
I’ve been brought juice boxes and crackers and Kleenex by nurses just coming by to check on me as I wait for test results.
I’ve sat next to hospital beds in recovery rooms waiting for my son to wake up as nurses pile my bag with hand knit hats and homemade pillow cases and stuffed animals to take home for later.
My son was bumped to the front of the surgery schedule when a scheduling nurse felt that our surgery time was too late and too long for an infant to fast. Not because I asked but just because she thought it would be better.
The people who work in this hospital are angels and heroes to many, many families.
Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland distributed 139 million dollars of charity care and benefits in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the pediatricians working at the hospital are on the “Best Doctors in America” list. Lives are literally being saved every day at this hospital.
The story of what happened to Jahi is unimaginable and devastating. However there are countless positive stories leaving the hospital every day and have been for the last one hundred years. And that shouldn’t be forgotten, regardless of tweets or statements from a very chatty lawyer.