Baby Isaiah dies in Edmonton hospital

Isaiah May, the Alberta infant who had been in intensive care since he suffered severe brain damage during his birth in October, died in his parents' arms just after he was taken off life support shortly after noon Thursday at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital.
Isaiah May, seen in this file photo with his mother, Rebecka, had been on life support since being transferred to Stollery Children's Hospital shortly after his birth in October. ((Facebook))

Isaiah May, the Alberta infant in intensive care since he suffered brain damage during his birth in October, died in his parents' arms at 12:11 p.m. local time Thursday just after he was taken off life support at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital.

The announcement was made by lawyer Rosanna Saccomani, who read a prepared statement from parents Isaac and Rebecka May, who did not attend the news conference.

"All along, it was our hope that Isaiah's condition would brighten and improve. It has not," the statement said.

"The decision that has now been made may be incomprehensible but has been made knowing that we did everything possible to find meaningful answers to our questions and that all reasonable alternatives were fully explored and carefully considered …

"Isaiah has been a blessing to us and his spirit will always be in our hearts. We will never forget the miracle of his birth, the Christmas that we spent together and the early spring day when we said our goodbyes ... we have set our tiny miracle free and he is now home in the arms of angels."

Court date cancelled

The news conference came hours after Alberta Health Services announced that a court hearing on Isaiah's case scheduled for 9 a.m. MT would not proceed.

The court was expecting to receive a report from Victoria neonatal specialist Dr. Richard Taylor, who travelled to Edmonton last month to assess the infant's condition.

"The hospital had stated that there was no evidence of brain function and or very little evidence," Taylor told CBC News. "And I essentially confirmed that. That he had no signs of brain stem function."

Taylor said he spent time with the baby's parents, showing them MRI scans from a healthy baby's brain and comparing it with Isaiah's, which showed "quite devastating" changes.

The Mays had heard stories of other children recovering from similar brain damage, Taylor said, but his investigation showed the cases were not similar to Isaiah's.

"There have been no cases in the literature or, as far as I am aware, of a child who has had this degree of injury to the brain ever recovering to any sort of meaningful extent," he said.

Isaac and Rebecka May were "very caring, very reasonable parents who simply wanted the best for their child," he said, who wanted to be absolutely certain their son had no chance of recovery.

Family felt rushed in beginning

Isaiah May suffered severe brain damage after being deprived of oxygen during a long, medically complicated delivery on Oct. 24 in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., about 230 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.

Doctors at the Stollery hospital had wanted to take him off a ventilator in January, believing there was no hope for recovery, but the Mays went to court to get a reprieve and have a medical expert assess their son.

Lawyer Rosanna Saccomani read a prepared statement from Isaac and Rebecka May shortly after their son, Isaiah, died after being taken off life support. ((CBC))
The couple decided to remove Isaiah from life support after receiving assessments from Taylor and American neonatal specialist Dr. Martin McCaffrey.

"It's been very difficult for them, but they are at peace," Saccomani said, adding that the Mays wanted to have more time to make their decision and explore all their options, after feeling rushed at the beginning.

"When it comes to end-of-life decisions, we should never rush these. Every family has its own track and every family will come to certain decisions in their own way. They needed the extra time and they were given that extra time," she said.

Condolences from AHS

In a statement, Alberta Health Services offered its condolences to the family.

"All Alberta Health Services’ physicians and staff who have been involved in caring for Baby Isaiah were touched by the May family's strength. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family," the release said.

In their statement, the Mays thanked Taylor and McCaffrey, the staff at the Stollery hospital, as well as the thousands of people from around the world who offered their support.

Saccomani said the Mays appreciated the time that Taylor took with them to explain what he found in the assessment.