13-Year-Old Girl Brain Dead After Getting Routine Surgery To Have Tonsils Removed

December 16, 2013  |  

Having your tonsils removed always sounded like a relatively straightforward, not too complicated surgical procedure. Back in the day, I knew young people who had the surgery. But what was supposed to be a simple procedure for 13-year-old Jahi McMath has now left the teen on life support after she had some major complications.

According to the ABC affiliate in California, McMath, of Oakland, went to Oakland Children’s Hospital in the area last Monday to have her tonsils removed. Her mother, Nailah Winkfield, told ABC that she was actually having the surgery because McMath’s doctors said it would help with her sleep apnea.

“She smiled when she walked in this hospital and I told her this surgery is to make you better.”

Unfortunately, it made the young girl anything but.

“My daughter had actual clots sliding out of her mouth and they gave me a cup and said, ‘here catch them with the cup so we can measure them.'”

Soon after that, Winkfield says that her daughter went into cardiac arrest and died. Doctors were able to revive McMath, but at this point, she’s brain dead. To make things even more stressful, staff at Oakland Children’s Hospital have allegedly been encouraging Winkfield to remove her child from life support.

“They just have a social worker follow me around all day long asking me ‘do you have any other family that needs to see her?’ like trying to put a rush on it.”

McMath doesn’t want to remove her child from life support, but instead, wants answers from the hospital as to how all of this could have happened to the 13-year-old, and they claim that the staff has shown the girl a lack of attention. A statement has been released by hospital spokesperson Melinda Kriegel and she says that staff is investigating the situation:

“We’re very sad about this outcome, about what’s happened to her, but at this point I have no information on the details of the surgery. We will certainly investigate what happened. In any surgery there are risks and there can be unexpected, unanticipated complications.”

This is just a terrible turn of events and I can’t imagine what this family is going through.  What possibly could have gone wrong with the tonsillectomy? Share your thoughts on this tragedy below.

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  • The spirit of John Q

    Who in the hell is going to be held responsible for this !!?? Our children are so precious…. so precious…. not just a number ..a patient number waiting for some random procedure..the loss of ones child would be worse than any death or consequence… death begats death…G-d forbid this happens to any of us…maybe if those in the medical field realized that their lives were on the line as well ..that their lives also hung in the balance and were predicated on their success or neglegence of their work maybe then things would change….it all gets real simple real quick..an eye for an eye …blood for blood….when we are left with nothing else but the memory of our loved ones while we cry and mourn they hide behind their legal red tape and pre prepared speeches ..what else do we have ?? What else can we do except take action so that no other parent will have to experience this ..to make sure at least those doctors will never be able to do that go anyone else again…judgement is coming…

  • admiral

    This child is dead. It is sad, but true She is NOT breathing, no matter what he family thinks they see..Your brain drives the breathing reflex when it detects an increased level of C02 in the blood stream. Her brain has liquefied and not functioning, according to the report submitted by the neurologist to the court

  • admiral

    When the anaerobic micro organisms begin to multiply at lightning speed, it is ugly and foul. Then the families accuses you of not bathing their loved one. When in fact this is the natural process of a corpse. No amount of soap & water can mask the smell of a rotting corpse. This civilized thing to do is burial or cremation.

  • admiral

    We don’t know what really happened. There is no such thing as a simple surgery. The tonsils and adenoids are very vascular. A person can bleed out very easily from this surgery. It has happened many time before. God will is, always has been and always will be perfect. We don’t understand everything that happens and we have never been promised tomorrow. Jesus did say that those that morn will be comforted. If this mother ask, God will send His Holy Spirit to comfort her as she goes through this immerse time of grief and pain

  • creamz

    I bet she still be alive if she wuz white

    • Teresa Sheppard

      dear lord there’s no time for racial things in such a manner is this it doesn’t matter what color the child is our God created all colors what color is your heaven

      • Pete Package

        There’s plenty of time. It’s so obvious this girl was fed too much of the wrong food. Sooner or later her parents will have to face the medical facts and turn her off

    • Pete Package

      You Dumazz! I’d bet you’d be able to write a grammatically correct sentence if your blackazz had payed attention in school Stupid!

    • admiral

      black & white people can both bleed out red blood and die. I have been a nurse fro 32 years and seen it happen.

  • Tamara Raye Patterson

    I just hope they get answers….. I was just reading an article about this happening two years ago at the same hospital.

  • SuzyQPublic

    This child had sleep apnea because she is morbidly obese. Then complications from the surgery for the same reasons. The parents need to turn that pointed finger back around to themselves. Any parent whose child is in their custody should be arrested for letting a child get this fat. Why is everyone blaming the surgeons? These parents are so out of touch with reality and responsibilty, for all we know they asked for the surgery against medical advice as they are doing right now: keeping a person on life support who is brain dead. I am being rouigh on them because it kills me everytime I see an obese child with parents. Killing that child as good as a gun pointed at them. Wake up people.

    • karen

      Nobody is talking about the elephant in the room – that is the fact she was morbidly obese. Very sad, but not shocking. Seriously they are surprised, cardiac arrest is mostly caused by obesity, that is her heart has to work too hard due to her being a morbidly obese kid particularly during the trauma of a surgery and anesthesia. The parents should be held accountable. Pull the plug. The time for them to do something was years ago when they were feeding her.

      • Megan

        To let this poor beautiful child get so large is a travesty and then be stupid enough to let her undergo surgery is awful. Then for the doctors to actually perform surgery instead of insisting the parents help her lose weight is unforgiveable. Between the ignorant parents and doctors, this girl didn’t stand a chance. God rest you Jidha.

  • Axle Bearings

    This child in her case was just probably too young for the surgery. Tonsil surgery isn’t just the removal of tonsils but they also pump drugs into your body such as anesthetics and pain medication. The girl probably got an allergic reaction towards it or was overdosed. Her obesity is an indicator that she has a slow metabolism and therefore couldn’t remove all the drugs in her body in time. Drugs are toxic if they remain in your body too long. Plus she was asleep during and after the surgery. That further slowed her metabolism. The toxic drug levels probably led to the cardiac arrest thus stopping blood flow to the brain and causing the brain to die. The brain can only stay alive for ten minutes without blood oxygen.
    They should of focused on reducing her weight first to relieve her sleep apnea or at least that would of least made her healthy enough for the surgery. Or just wait till she becomes an adult.

    • shulkman

      I hope you come back and realize just how many things you have wrong in your statement.

  • Huuf Arted

    Her story touched my heart deeply. Lord come and be with your people and hear our outcry for your Deliverance. Please work your will in this situation and grant healing to this girl and your peace to her family especially her mother. We pray in Yeshua’s name and all of God’s children say AMEN!

  • Tish Nat Wiggins-Brenson

    Praying for the strength of this family. This is a cold world and sometimes you never get answers. However, I’m asking GOD to step in, this is a innocent child.

    • Teresa Sheppard

      studies in Africa states that a sleeping pill called zolpidem has awakened people from brain damage we know the pill as ambien don’t know if it would work but it couldn’t hurt

      • anonymoose

        That is absurd.

        Ambient? Waking you up from death? African research studies?

  • vellyvell82

    God knew of this situation before hand…but not to those who would believe that it caught God by surprise…the absence of knowledge can invite confusion and pain.And Gods knowledge is foolish to man…God never uses the knowledge of man to bring glory to himself.So God seeks for those who will worship God in spirit and truth.Without the spirit of truth..(The Holyghost)..that. can’t happen…so God is..who He is…So when you talk like Him..be on the lookout for haterism in the form of confusion…All things are possible with God..something humans can’t comprehend

    • SuzyQPublic

      Seriously — this is God’s fault???? Does he just sit around and plan bad stuff. Does he have favorites? Only a child would believe that. Do you also believe in the easter bunny?

      • vellyvell82

        the truth is the truth and a lie is a lie period.You make up truth according to your own imagination…what is life to you..?..Why are you here..?..what is the purpose for your existence…and all these questions will remain unanswered while living to those who think like you.I became as a child before God…being born again….Before..I was born in sin…like everyone else…but what everyone don’t know is that…sin empowers satan in this world…to whom it also was given the ability to decieve…we are like children to him(satan)…he introduces us to schemes…lies…and trouble…ask adam and eve…oh..they’re dead…believing the lies of satan.cost them their lives…got them evicted out of the garden of eden…and satan is using the same plan…different method…for us.Where are you going…when it’s time for you to leave here..?..

  • Denise

    The details from the article point to a post-op tonsillar bleed. They commonly happen either in the first few hours or 7-10 days later when the “scab” falls off. It’s one of the known complications from tonsillectomies. I’ll keep the family in my prayers.

  • Nurse

    You’re all a bunch of trolls! Don’t judge unless you’re educated in medicine! Surgery consent forms alway list DEATH as a risk. It’s for a reason!

    • Dr. Dubya


  • surely

    Malpractice get a lawyer!!!!!

  • MJ123

    Prayers for all.. They need to check her for Von Willebrands it is a clotting problem. Runs in families..4 kids in my family almost died from same surgery. Easy to handle but mostly ignored by medical professionals. NOT SURE WHY

  • JRoc85

    Those doctors played Russian Roulette with this girl’s life, & this is the result!!! Some doctors are more concerned with getting paid, & less concerned with taking care of their patients!!! God be with this family, & heal their child!!!

  • KandisWig

    I’m gonna get downvotes for this one, but…oh, well. I was mad that they recommended this child to get her tonsils taken out to help her sleep apnea. This child was overweight and needed to LOSE WEIGHT. This is a doggone shame before God. Ugh. Heartbreaking, and TERRIBLE that this girl did not get the care she actually needed.

    • Wishing4Baby

      Exactly!! Weight management would’ve helped her apnea tremendously. In addition, I think the docs here should’ve refused to operate on her until she was a healthy, at a minimum–SAFE, weight for surgery with general anesthesia. Very sad that a young girl is now facing these tragic circumstances. Prayers for her and her family. I don’t think money is the answer here. If she lives, compensation for the lifetime of care she will need should be paid. If she doesn’t survive, as a mom of angels I can say…no amount of money will make this better.

    • TK

      No down vote from me. My lil guy had sleep apnea and we decided to have him get this surgery earlier this year after much research. His was due to genetics not at all weight but one of the things the doctors discussed was being overweight increases the risk for complications (for kids and adults who have the surgery).
      The first step should have been weight loss not surgery.
      I’m not blaming the parents, my heart goes out to them. But as Black people we do need to advocate harder for our health because our level of care is too far behind everyone else’s. I did my research and talked with other parents who had this done-for over a year before we even saw an ENT specialist. Too often we opt to take the easy way out and the medial profession is included in this trend too.
      I hope she does wake up though.

      • anonymoose

        People generally don’t wake up from death. She is a corpse. If you’re religious, her spirit is long gone.

    • lela

      I agree. This is sad all around, but regular exercise would have helped before anything invasive.



  • Bread Angel

    While I am so sorry that this happened, but PLEASE, unless you are an anesthesia professional and have specific facts, do NOT blame anesthesia. Based on the facts as presented, it was more than likely aspiration of a blood clot that occluded the airway or hypovolemic shock from blood loss. The patient should have been monitored closely by the nursing staff.

  • Miami mom

    There had to be something wrong with anesthesia. I would start there. Get an attorney. NOW

    • Bread Angel

      According to the facts as presented, she had severe post-operative bleeding. This probably caused aspiration of a blood clot or death from blood loss. Please don’t implicate anesthesia without the facts.

  • alani

    The Hospital wants to mine the child’s organs. That is why they want her taken off of life support. I hope the parents do not agree to let them mutilate her body.

    • Pete Package

      Why do you hope that Dummy?

    • admiral

      The girl has been dead for a while. Her organs are of no use to anyone

  • SXQN

    My Lord! My heart and prayers goes out to this family. Before yelling “sue them”, there needs to be an investigation into what occurred during the surgery. There are always risks for any surgical procedure. It could be no one’s preventable fault.

  • Errathecreator

    I’m sure the anesthesia didn’t help her pre existing sleep apnea… There’s a huge population of people who have complications after surgery because anesthesia worsens the apnea…. I wish more doctors were educated in sleep medicine.

    • RPSGT

      I work in sleep, most people have to have s sleep study and vant have this surgery without cpap. Soon as I saw her piv i knew what probably happend. May god bless this family.

  • 2late4me

    She probably had complications from the anesthesia that they gave her and not the surgery in general. I have had several operations and they have a very hard time waking me up, also severe nausea. My heart truly goes out to the family and they will need our prayers…

  • MarriedMomOf2

    Praying for this poor girl and her family. Her family deserves an explanation on what happened to their baby on that operation table, something ain’t right with that hospital and I hope her family take legal action.

  • Fair and Balanced

    This is so unfortunate, may God bless and keep her daughter in his loving arms and may he hold her mother tight as she needs him more than ever now. As far as the hospital is concerned she should sue them until the wheels roll off, mistakes are made and hospitals do all they can to cover up for that mistake she needs to hire an attorney that is not a part of the hospital crowd.

    • SXQN

      Not every medical tragedy is actionable. More facts and information need to be gathered. Prayers for this family.

      • KandisWig


  • Tee Elyse

    Terrible!!! Jesus, be a fence around the McMath family!! That’s so scary and unfortunate!!!

    • stephie