The day doctors detached Belinda from the EEG, OneLegacy, a transplant donor network asked Sharon to consider donating her daughter's organs. Distraught, she refused to discuss the idea. Belinda was still in a coma, and the phenobarbital that sedated her was still in her system. Belinda wasn't dead yet, as far as Sharon knew. Sharon waited for the phenobarbital levels to lower enough for the doctors to do more tests. Meanwhile, doctors gave Belinda breathing treatments and suctioned dark fluid from her lungs.
One more day
On Saturday, November 10, Belinda's phenobarbital levels were low enough that she was no longer in a coma. What happened from there was a disorienting, blurry whirlwind of activity, noise and confusion. With her poor eyesight and emotional distress, Sharon cannot recall the names or the number of doctors she spoke with that day.
The medical records of what happened that day add little clarity to Sharon's memory of events. Whether the physicians followed California law regarding declaring brain death is difficult to determine from reading the charts. Under state law, once one doctor declares a patient brain dead, the death must be independently confirmed by another physician. If the patient is a donor, neither of the doctors making the declaration can be involved in the organ harvesting.
Belinda's medical charts refer to tests performed before her liver transplant, but after her transplant they are handwritten and lacking detail. Doctors told Sharon and later, a medical examiner, that after they disconnected the EEG, they performed gag reflex tests, spontaneous breathing tests, and other tests for brain function.
A handwritten note dated November 10 is crossed out in part, and written over: The words "I will" are crossed out and replaced with "I am declaring her brain dead. Discussed with Dr. Miller (attending). " Time: 11:50 a.m. The handwritten signature is illegible but doctor Ghobrial's name is imprinted on the page. At 3:30 p.m., Dr. Chad Miller, the attending doctor, pronounced Belinda brain dead. It is unclear from the records whether Miller saw or examined Belinda.
At 4 p.m., several doctors spoke with Sharon privately. As with events earlier that day, many details of that conversation - including the names of the doctors she spoke with - are an emotional and visual blur. Sharon could see five doctors, but could not see well enough to read their names. She focused not on their looks, but their words: Belinda failed the tests for brain functioning; she was brain dead. Reeling from those words, Sharon asked, "What do we do now?" Disconnect Belinda from the ventilator, Sharon heard. "I was horrified," she remembers. "Why? When?" she asked. In an hour, she heard. Sharon screamed and cried, "I couldn't deal with this," she said. "I became hysterical."
As Sharon tried to calm down, doctors asked her to reconsider donating Belinda's organs.
Sharon asked what would happen if she agreed. Belinda would stay on the ventilator one more day while they ran more tests, she heard. "Regretfully, I finally agreed," Sharon said. "It bought me one more day of holding her hand and talking to her."