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Texas family fights to keep 9-year-old daughter on life support, searches for new hospital

The parents of Payton Summons, 9, are fighting to keep their daughter on life support after doctors have declared her brain dead. (Image source: Video screenshot)

A Texas family is fighting to keep their 9-year-old daughter on life support after doctors declared her brain dead.

Payton Summons suffered cardiac arrest last month and was placed on a ventilator. After tests showed she had no brain activity, doctors began the process to remove her from life support.

But Payton's parents believe she can recover, so they took the Fort Worth hospital to court after the hospital granted them a four-day delay based on their religious objections.

"In time we believe all things will regenerate and she will be, with therapy, of course, back to her normal self," the family's attorney Justin Moore told KXAS-TV.

On Monday, a Tarrant County judge granted a 14-day temporary restraining order that prevents the hospital from taking the girl off of the breathing machine.

The family has until Oct. 15 to find another hospital to care for her, unless something changes at another hearing set for Friday.

What happened?

Last month, Payton suffered cardiac arrest while she was spending the night with her grandmother.

During the night, “she screamed for her Grandmother to help her and said that she couldn’t breathe," Payton's mother Tiffany Hofstette told KTVT-TV. "Then she collapsed."

Paramedics started CPR and took the girl to Cook Children's Hospital where doctors restored her heartbeat. However, she did not regain the capacity to breathe.

The hospital said in statement reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Payton arrived at Cook Children’s on Tuesday (Sept. 25), unconscious and suffering from cardiac arrest. She underwent an hour of CPR at home and in the ambulance on the way to Cook Children’s. After arriving in our Emergency Department, our physicians and nurses were able to revive her heartbeat, but they were unsuccessful in resuscitating her breathing.

Payton’s breathing is currently being maintained through artificial means with the use of a ventilator, but she suffered a devastating injury to her brain due to being without oxygen for over an hour.

Doctors found a large cancerous growth behind the girl's heart. The tumor caused Payton's cardiac arrest, Moore told KXAS.

After a brain scan showed "zero brain activity," the hospital declared the girl brain dead.

A second scan was scheduled as part of the process for the declaration of death in the state of Texas.

“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,” a Cook Children's Hospital spokesperson told KTVT in a previous statement.

The hospital can no longer comment on the case after Payton's family revoked the hospital's HIPAA authorization.

“We’re disappointed that the family has revoked their authorization because we believe that accurate information facilitates fair, balanced and informed reporting,” the hospital said in a statement released on Wednesday, according to the Star-Telegram. “While we don’t understand why the family has taken this action, we will respect their right to privacy as we do for all our patients.”

Payton's father told KXAS that his daughter would be taken off the ventilator if a second brain scan showed no activity.

“They explained to us that after she fails the second brain death test,” Payton’s father, Joseph Summons, said, “they would stop the breathing machine and shortly after that her heart would stop.”

What else did the hospital say?

“There’s nothing more heartbreaking for a family to face than the possibility of losing a child. Our clinicians, many of whom are parents too, work tirelessly to save children every day," Cook Children's Hospital said in a previous statement.

What does Texas law say?

Under Texas law, a person is considered dead when "there is irreversible cessation of the person's spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions."

If Payton's parents are unable to find a doctor and hospital willing to accept her for care, the hospital will be able to take her off the ventilator.

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