Family makes last-minute plea to keep 9-year-old on ventilator

Posted at 9:09 PM, Oct 15, 2018

The parents of Payton Summons, who was declared brain-dead, have been granted more time to keep their 9-year-old on a ventilator at a Fort Worth, Texas, hospital.

Lawyers for Payton's family filed a new request on Monday to extend a temporary restraining order that would keep her on the machine at Cook Children's Medical Center. The order has been extended until next Monday at 6 pm, according to Justin Moore, a lawyer for Payton's family.

A previous temporary restraining order against Cook Children's Medical Center was scheduled to expire Monday afternoon after Judge Melody Wilkinson of the 17th District Court of Texas denied a request last week to extend it.

"The parents want to keep on fighting," Moore, told HLN's "Michaela" on Thursday.

"It's probably the hardest case I've ever had to deal with in my young career," he said. "Just to see this particular situation where parents are just fighting tooth and nail and they're not gaining an inch at all, it's just heartbreaking."

Payton has been on the ventilator at Cook Children's Medical Center since late September, after she went into cardiac arrest due to a large tumor in her chest.

Last month, she was staying overnight with her grandmother when she suddenly woke up, "screamed for her grandmother to help her and said that she couldn't breathe ... then she collapsed," Payton's mother, Tiffany Hofstetter, told CNN affiliate KTVT in September.

Payton was transported to the hospital, and doctors established a heartbeat but put her on a ventilator because she was no longer breathing.

She was confirmed brain-dead after a test determined that she did not have brain activity.

"Brain death, by definition, is irreversible," CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said in 2014.

"In the United States and most places, it is legally synonymous with death -- the same as if your heart stops," he said. "But brain death means a total loss of brain activity."

Under Texas law, a person is considered dead when they have suffered an irreversible loss of all brain function, the hospital said in a statement in September, according to KTVT.

"Per our protocol and national pediatric medical standards, a second brain death exam was scheduled to take place by a different physician within 12 hours of the first to complete the legal process of declaring Payton deceased," the hospital said.

"In addition to dealing with the sudden blow of her cardiac arrest and devastating brain injury, Payton's family is also coping with the news that the arrest was caused by the growth of a very large tumor in her chest that is shutting off her circulatory system."

The hospital held off on performing the second brain death examination because Payton's family filed that temporary restraining order against the facility. It was filed in order to keep her on the ventilator until they found another hospital that could take their daughter. The family's co-counsel Paul Stafford said last week that the family contacted about 25 other facilities, but there were no takers.

"Unfortunately, after 25 out of 28 facilities that were contacted, we had no takers. We have two maybes, and those were preconditioned on certain things which may be life-threatening to Payton if performed," he said.

Kim Brown, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said in a statement this month, "Cook Children's has been informed that we no longer have the ability to speak to media about Payton Summons. Although the family previously signed a consent form authorizing the release of information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), we have been notified by the family's lawyer that the family has revoked their consent for us to speak about Payton's condition.

"Unfortunately, this means that we are no longer able to provide detailed, factual information regarding this case. We're disappointed that the family has revoked their authorization because we believe that accurate information facilitates fair, balanced and informed reporting."