EDMONTON — Little Isaiah May has been give more time to live so lawyers and medical experts can review whether he should remain hooked up to a hospital ventilator.
Officials with Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton had indicated they planned to unplug the three-month-old baby from the breathing machine on Wednesday because they say there is no hope he will ever develop normally on his own.
His young parents, Rebekka and Isaac May, argue their only son is improving. They have asked Court of Queen’s Bench for a 90-day delay so they can obtain an independent medical review of his case.
Alberta Health Services says a 30-day review would make more sense. Justice Michelle Crighton is to rule Jan. 27 on how long the delay will be.
Rebekka May, 23, was grateful her son will not be allowed to die on Wednesday and is nervously hopeful the judge will grant their request.
“We are just asking for 90 days. It is not a lot of time,” she said Tuesday, her husband by her side.
“It has been very stressful. It has been very hard and very challenging. But every time I hold my son and every time I look in his eyes it gives me the strength to face another day.”
Isaiah was born on Oct. 24 at the hospital in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., after a difficult 40-hour labour during which the umbilical cord was wrapped around the boy’s neck.
He was flown to the Stollery in Edmonton and put on a ventilator in the neonatal unit.
Alberta Health Services sent a letter to his parents on Jan. 13 stating the boy’s doctors believe all medical procedures have been exhausted.
It said the boy will never recover from a severe lack of oxygen at birth and hospital staff were going remove the ventilator on Wednesday.
“The diagnosis is unchanged; your son suffered severe anoxic brain injury at birth and has irreversible brain damage. There is no hope of recovery for Isaiah,” the letter stated.
“Accordingly, it is with sadness that we are advising you that your treatment team will discontinue mechanical ventilation support to Isaiah after 2 p.m. Wednesday, January 20, 2010.”
Since his birth, everything doctors have told them about their son has been wrong, including that he was not expected to survive more than a few days, said the Mays.
“He is doing everything they said he would not do. Every day he does something new,” Rebekka said.
“His eyes dilate. He opens his eyes. He moves his limbs. He is growing. He is gaining weight. He is living. They told us he would never do any of that.”
Brent Windwick, lawyer for the hospital and Alberta Health Services, asked the court for a shorter review period, arguing the delay would put a strain on doctors and staff at the Stollery.
Everyone appreciates the stress the Mays are under, but that a 30-day review period would more fair, he added.
David Steele, lawyer for Dr. Ernest Phillipos, director of the neonatal clinic, said the ethical questions raised by the case weigh heavily on those involved.
“This has been a very sad situation for everyone,” Steele said in court. “As a parent myself, I can’t put myself in their shoes.”
Isaac May said the couple have been married for more than four years and spoke of having children together when they were in their teens.
He said they don’t want to let the situation with Isaiah go on forever but won’t give up hope until they hear from other medical experts.
Rebekka said she chose the name Isaiah for her first son when she was only 15.
“We hold him every day,” the two said in unison.
“He responds by moving, lots of movement,” he said.
“He brings his knees to his abdomen and he moves his arms and flexes his feet and his heart rate will go up,” she said.