A Lethbridge, Alta., couple has been granted a temporary injunction to prevent doctors from taking their eight-month-old daughter off life-support, but the case will return to court in early January.

The girl, named Hermella, was diagnosed at the age of two months with a rare form of cancer, which was successfully treated in Toronto. After the surgery, she reportedly contracted a virus that left her brain dead.

Her parents, Anna Motsyk and Will Mammo, said their little girl responds to light, touch, voices and music.

Hermella Mammo

Eight-month-old Hermella Mammo is in the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. She reportedly contracted a virus that left her brain dead following a cancer surgery. (Family photo)

They also said they don't trust the prognosis they have been given, after getting conflicting messages from doctors in the past.

"We were told that our daughter was dead on Aug. 17 and then, on Sept. 23, we were told that she's alive," Mammo told reporters outside the Calgary Courts Centre.

"And now, we are told that she's recovering, but it's not significant enough to get to a meaningful recovery." 

Not ready to give up

The parents said they don't want their daughter to suffer on life-support if there is genuinely no hope of improvement, but they're not ready to give up yet.

"We just want time to see how much farther she can go," Mammo said. "We're not in here to say, 'Keep our daughter [on life-support] for the rest of her life.'"

The non-profit Open Arms Patient Advocacy Society is assisting the parents in the legal case.

Tianna Melnyk, a spokeswoman for the group, said if the injunction had not been granted, Hermella — who's at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary — would have been removed from life-support on Thursday.

Alberta Health Services does not comment on individual cases.

'Our hearts go out to you'

During the injunction hearing, Justice John Rooke, of the Court of Queen's Bench, told the parents he empathized with their situation.

"Whatever the court's decision, our hearts go out to you," he said, adding the court will aim to do "what's right in law and ultimately what's right for Hermella."

Jim Peacock, a lawyer acting on behalf of doctors who have attended to Hermella, said the significance the family attaches to some of the baby's recent physical movements is different from the significance physicians attach.

In the opinion of a doctor at the Alberta Children's Hospital, court heard, some improvement in Hermella's condition is possible but the likelihood of a recovery is approaching "nil."

The doctor's opinion is that withdrawal of life-support is the best option, court heard, and that opinion was supported by doctors at Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Rooke granted a temporary injunction to give the parents more time to seek proper legal advice and said he hopes an agency will refer the couple to a lawyer who can assist them.

The case will be back in court on Jan. 4, 2016.