A 13-year-old girl on life support after she was declared brain-dead at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland last year will receive a posthumous eighth grade diploma this week, the girl’s family said.
In a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon, the family of Jahi McMath said that Oakland charter school E.C. Reems Academy has agreed to honor her with a diploma that will be accepted by a family member at the school’s graduation ceremony on Friday.
Jahi was declared brain-dead late last year after suffering complications from tonsil surgery at Children’s Hospital. The family refused to accept the doctors’ determination and fought in court to have her body moved to another location.
Eventually, they were permitted to move her body, still on a respirator, once they had found another facility willing to accept her. The Alameda County coroner’s bureau issued a death certificate in early January and Jahi was moved to an undisclosed treatment facility.
Jahi’s uncle, Omari Sealey, said today that the school initially was hesitant to give Jahi a diploma, but after he alerted news outlets to the family’s conflict with the school, school officials decided to give her the diploma.
In a post Tuesday, Jahi’s family implored more than 25,000 followers to their “Keep Jahi Mcmath on life support” Facebook page to call the school and tell them they want Jahi to get a diploma.
The family wrote that Jahi:
“… should be graduating from the 8th grade this month but it may not be possible for her to make it to the ceremony, as she is fighting to recover.”
The school’s website email form was not functional this morning and its phone had a busy signal. Sealey said he received a call from E.C. Reems principal Lisa Blair Wednesday morning to inform him that the school would be giving a diploma to Jahi.
Sealey said that he thinks the media attention had an effect on the school’s decision, particularly because the school is in danger of closing — its petition to have its charter renewed was denied by the Oakland school board late last month:
“If you don’t want a bunch of cameras and a bunch of activity, just give her an honorary diploma.”
.Jahi’s young sister will be getting a fifth grade graduation certificate in the same ceremony, so the diploma will either be collected by her or Jahi’s mother, Sealey said. The entire family plans to attend.
Jahi’s location remains unclear but in posts following the move, the family has said she continues receiving treatment and that she is “stable” and “recovering,” but have given few details about her condition.
Sealey said today that it has been a while since he has been to visit Jahi, but that she has motor functions and responds to voice commands:
“We ask her to move something, she’ll move it.”
Omari Sealey wrote on Instagram Wednesday:
“As long as she continues to progress every day like she has been doing there is nothing any one can say to make our faith waver.”
— Scott Morris, Bay City News