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Oakland Girl May Be Taken Off Life Support After Tonsil Surgery Complications

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A 13-year-old Oakland girl could be removed from life support because she's been declared brain dead after she suffered complications following a routine tonsil-removal procedure, her uncle said Monday.

"We didn't want her to be removed from life support but the decision is out of our hands because it's been declared a legal death," said Omari Sealey, 27, the uncle of Jahi McMath, an eighth-grade student at the E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts in Oakland.

Late Monday night, Jahi's family was able to persuade doctors at Children's Hospital Oakland agreed to perform one more EEG test on Tuesday to determine her brain activity before a decision is made to remove life support.

Sealey said Jahi went to Children's Hospital Oakland on Dec. 9 to have her tonsils removed to cure a sleep apnea problem.

But he said Jahi had trouble breathing and suffered "an enormous amount of bleeding" after the surgery, which had been expected to be routine.

Sealey said, "No one knew what was going on" for several days and on Thursday Jahi went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead.

Dr. David Durand, the chief of Children's pediatric department, said in a statement that the hospital is "reviewing her case very closely."

Durand said, "Our hearts go out to her family and we want to support them during this extremely difficult time."

But he said the hospital can't disclose any of the details of Jahi's case because her family has asked it not to disclose them to the news media.

Children's spokeswoman Melinda Krigel said, "With any surgical or medical procedure there are inherent risks and in rare occasions there are unexpected outcomes."

Sealey said Jahi didn't want to undergo the tonsil-removal procedure and told her mother, Nailah Winkfield, "something bad is going to happen to me."

But Sealey said Winkfield, his sister, told Jahi that the surgery would help her sleep better and she shouldn't worry because Children's "is the best hospital" and the surgeon was the best in his field.

Winkfield now "feels guilty" about convincing Jahi to have the procedure, he said.

"Something terrible went wrong," Sealey said. "We hope the hospital's investigation is conducted fairly and we get some answers."

Sealey said he was in the hospital room with Jahi during and after her surgery and has been sleeping in Jahi's room along with other family members.

"I saw blood come out of her mouth," he said, "The images will stick with me forever."

Jahi is "a very sweet girl who is very innocent and pure," Sealey said.

"She always laughed and giggled and never frowned and was everyone's favorite," he added.

Jahi has an older sister and a younger brother, according to Sealey.

"She was the glue in my sister's household because she told everyone to clean their room" and do other things around the house, he said.

"We've lost a very precious gift to the world," Sealey said. "This is a severe loss to our entire family."

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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