OAKLAND, CA — Nailah Winkfield, the mother of Jahi McMath, a teenage girl recovering from severe brain damage after complications from tonsil and adenoid surgery, accepted an honorary diploma Friday on her daughter’s behalf from E.C. Reems Academy of Technology and Arts. McMath was in eighth grade at the school before tragedy struck late last year.
McMath, now 14, became the center of a nationwide controversy when she was declared “legally dead” by staff at Oakland Children’s Hospital and Alameda County officials after suffering cardiac arrest following surgery to treat her sleep apnea.
At the time, McMath was on a ventilator, but her heart was beating on its own. Hospital officials insisted she was brain dead and sought the court’s permission to remove the girl from life support, but McMath’s family objected, insisting the girl had shown signs of life, including purposeful movement in response to touch and sound.
After a weeks-long legal battle during which Children’s Hospital refused to provide McMath a feeding tube to nourish her body, the family won approval to transfer McMath to another facility. Since then, they say, she is “improving.”
At Friday’s graduation ceremony, Winkfield wore a t-shirt bearing her daughter’s image and the words “Pray for Jahi.” She told KGO-TV she hopes her daughter will one day recover enough to attend high school and college.