Imagine the trauma of having your 1-year-old daughter struggle against a deadly virus. The germ can potentially destroy her nervous system. The stress escalates when doctors advise putting her into a comatose state. You reluctantly consent, hoping the drastic measure will save her life.
Two months later, your baby is still unresponsive. Now, you’re told to just pull the plug on her life support. The doctors have given up hope for her recovery. What would you do?
This was the horrific decision facing the parents of Marwa, living in France. Meanwhile, her twin sister needed their care. Two months of hospitalization had drained the family’s finances.
Marwa appeared to be brain dead. Hospitals aren’t legally required to keep brain dead patients on life support. The staff at La Timone Hospital in Marseille was following protocol.
According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, a medically-induced coma is a procedure rendering a state of unconsciousness. The patient receives a controlled amount of anesthetic to protect their brain from swelling. The drug reduces blood flow to the brain, along with its active function.
Meanwhile, physicians constantly monitor the rest of the person’s vital systems. Additional drugs control breathing, heart rhythm, and blood pressure. Someone in this condition cannot respond to external stimuli.
When brain tissue drastically expands, it impairs the supply of blood and oxygen, putting additional cells at risk for death. The condition becomes life-threatening. Doctors only perform a medically-induced coma when brain swelling doesn’t respond to other treatment. With a patient unconscious, their brain can rest, allowing swelling to decrease. By reducing brain pressure, damage is less likely. However, being comatose for more than two weeks can permanently injure the nervous system.
Marwa’s doctors feared that continuing the coma would render her nonfunctional if she did wake up. Called a persistent vegetative state, this status results from brain injury. The chance of recovering after three months of coma is highly unlikely. A person can remain in a vegetative condition for weeks, months, or years.
Marwa’s brain wasn’t responding to the coma intervention. Her doctors believed she’d suffered severe brain damage and would never be able to breathe, walk, or eat independently. The poor prognosis prompted them to advise stopping life support.
Still, it is possible for comatose patients to have their brain function restored. Marwa’s parents clung to this shred of hope. However, they needed the backing of others who shared their viewpoint. Alone, they lacked substantial clout. Would posting on Facebook help?
Dad decided to write a petition, asking the hospital to grant his daughter more time. He named the online campaign, “Not Without My Marwa.” His post called upon Facebook members for prayer, signatures, and donations. Much to the family’s surprise, the petition drew 115,000+ supporters!