OAKLAND -- The family of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl who was declared brain-dead after complications from tonsil surgery, gathered with supporters Wednesday evening in the hope that prayers from around the world might foster a "medical miracle" and help bring their daughter home.
Hundreds of supporters gathered at Paradise Baptist Church in East Oakland to pray the girl would recover, but those at the baptist church were not alone. With Jahi's story gaining momentum on social media, supporters from around the globe pledged to join the family in spirit, using the hashtag #prayersforJahi on Twitter.
"A lot of people here don't know my daughter, and they came out to pray for her," said Jahi's mother, Nailah Winkfield. "I can't wait to get back to the hospital and tell her how many people are praying for her."
Jahi entered Children's Hospital Oakland to have her tonsils removed on Dec. 9; doctors hoped the operation would help control her sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
The Rev. Leon McDaniels, of Paradise Baptist Church, noted that though the circumstances of the vigil were difficult, her family and supporters have not given up hope.
"We didn't come to eulogize Jahi," McDaniels said. "We came here to pray for her. and we have tremendous support.
"God already knows what we want. What we want is a medical miracle."
After the surgery, family members said Jahi appeared healthy and alert until later that night, when she began bleeding and went into cardiac arrest. She was pronounced brain-dead three days later after experiencing massive swelling in her brain.
Subsequent tests have shown no brain activity, but her mother and other family members have sought to keep the girl on life support.
The family's attorney, Christopher Dolan, delivered a cease-and-desist letter to hospital officials Tuesday, demanding the hospital keep her alive. Winkfield said hospital staff had been pressuring her into signing paperwork to have Jahi taken off life support and release her body to the Alameda County Coroner's office.
"We'd like to thank everyone across the nation who took this time to pray for Jahi," the girl's uncle, Omari Sealey, said at the vigil. "We feel rejuvenated, we feel recharged, and we are ready.
"We are praying for a medical miracle, but we are also praying for the hospital to have more compassion."
Hospital officials have repeatedly declined to discuss specifics of the case, saying that the family had denied them permission to do so. Federal and state medical privacy laws forbid the hospital from releasing information about a patient's condition or treatment without permission.