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INTERVIEW: Israel Stinson’s mom on battle with hospital that turned off toddler’s life support against her wishes

by | Sep 16, 2016

By Lisa Bourne

FAIRFIELD, California, September 13, 2016 —

interviewAfter losing her young son recently when a hospital disconnected his life support, Jonee Fonseca spoke about the little boy she lost and said she wants people to be aware of how her child’s life ended.

“My son was always an angel,” Fonseca said. “And the meaning of his name, ‘Apple of God’s eye,’ was more true than I had even realized.”

“I just want people to know the truth about how everything played out,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews. “I’d hate for it to happen to another family. I hate that it happened to my family.”

Two-year-old Israel Stinson died August 25 when Children’s Hospital Los Angeles forcibly removed his life support after the hospital fought in court to dissolve a restraining order keeping Israel alive until an independent neurologist could examine him.

The hospital rushed to pull Israel’s life support at the same time the family was waiting for a judge to hear their appeal, according to Alexandra Snyder, executive director for the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF), making certain the test did not take place.

“It was terrible the way everything played out,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews. “I don’t even know how to say how it felt. We had no say.”

A happy and loving little boy

She described her son as inviting and lovable, a tough little two-year-old who tried hard to keep up with his big brother and older cousins, whether in sports or horseplay.

“He was just so cool, and he was a ladies’ man too,” she recalled, laughing. “He loved the ladies. At Sunday school, he would always try and sit with the Sunday school teachers.”

Israel was the first of Fonseca and Nate Stinson’s two children. Little sister Nyomi is one and older brother Mathias, Stinson’s son, is seven. Fonseca said Israel’s siblings keep the family going as they grieve his loss.

“He was the best big brother ever. He watched over Nyomi like a hawk, and he would hold her hand and try to feed her,” Fonseca shared. “He loved his big brother. He would always copy his every move and all three of them were so close.”

“And he loved music,” she went on. “He didn’t dance much in front of others, but he loved dancing with Nyomi and mommy.”

“My husband and mom picked his name,” she told LifeSiteNews.

“Israel was always so special,” Fonseca continued. “He always had a certain glow about him. He was so goofy. Any time he saw the opportunity to make his parents laugh, he would. He would put on my glasses or dad’s shoes and walk around making funny noises and faces.”

“He was one of a kind,” she said. “There will never be another kid like him. He was very special.”

Months’ long ordeal

Israel’s death came after five months of anguish that began with his asthma attack in April and took the family in to court and out of the country to fight to save his life.

Despite a disputed declaration of “brain death,” they were resolute their son was still alive and trusted that Israel’s recovery was in God’s hands. They just wanted time for him to have a chance at recovery.

It doesn’t make sense

The family battled Kaiser Permanente’s Sacramento-area Medical Center, where Israel was taken after the attack, all the way to federal court to keep him on life support. They decided to have him airlifted for treatment out of the country to a hospital in Guatemala — where he thrived and defied the declaration of “brain death.” But after Children’s Hospital Los Angeles accepted him and he returned to the United States, its decision to remove life support defied explanation for Fonseca’s family and their attorney.

They were especially baffled because the LA hospital was aware of Israel’s condition while he was at the hospital in Guatemala and had showed willingness to take him knowing the family intended for him to receive treatment.

The family had been searching for facilities back in the U.S. during his stay in Guatemala so they could come home. They had a Sacramento-area doctor familiar with his case who was willing to oversee treatment and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles had agreed to take Israel.

Israel’s plight was no secret

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was supposed to be an interim stop before Israel was moved to a long-term facility for recovery, which was his parents’ plan all along. His case was well-publicized, and according to Snyder and Fonseca, there was no mistaking his situation or the family’s intent in bringing him there.

While Children’s Hospital Los Angeles had initially indicated they would perform their own EEG and treat Israel, this changed within a few days of his arrival. Not only did the hospital refuse to do the test, they disregarded his two EEGs in Guatemala showing brain activity, Snyder said, refused to perform their own EEG, and insisted on deferring to Kaiser for Israel’s “brain death” declaration.

Fonseca said the hospital expressed unwillingness to conflict with Kaiser or suggest in any way they were wrong, and asked her to sign something apparently agreeing to the hospital’s concurrence with Kaiser.

“They told me, ‘We can’t go back in time and undo what Kaiser has done,’” Fonseca said. “They said right in front of Israel, ‘Your son is dead.’”

One doctor insisted on telling her each time he saw her that her son was dead.

“I got so mad, I said, ‘I don’t want you to say that to me ever again.’”

Things had turned quickly

After saying it would help the day Israel arrived, the hospital stopped feeding him the next day, and three days in to his stay they began telling Fonseca that Israel was dead. It also took three days for the hospital to tell her they would stop treating him, Fonseca said, “and all this time I’m waiting for them to tell me they’re going to work with me.”

Instead, she was given three days to find another facility, and each time she contacted one, they would refuse to take Israel after talking with the hospital.

Fonseca and Stinson got a court order to keep Israel’s life support in place and allow an independent doctor to perform another EEG, but were then informed in an email from the hospital of its intent to dissolve the order and remove life support.

A quick ruling

At the hearing, the judge took no time to make a decision, Fonseca recalled. “She didn’t give it any thought.”

Snyder then asked for time for the rest of the family to get into town.

Fonseca said the judge looked at the hospital’s attorney, who said, “No, she’s already had that.”

Then there was the actual handling of removing Israel’s life support.

Back at the hospital, Fonseca continued to implore the staff for more time while Snyder filed their appeal.

“They told me, ‘You have to let him go, your son has been gone since April 14,’” (the date of Kaiser’s declaration of “brain death”),” she stated. “I told them, ‘You’re going against my spiritual beliefs to keep saying he’s dead.’”

The couple’s family members called during this time, asking the hospital not to pull Israel’s life support.

“The hospital questioned me, ‘Who are you calling? What are you doing?’” Fonseca said. “I explained we were appealing for another injunction and they told me, ‘We can’t have that, we have to get this done today.’”

And despite the court order having no mention of timing, she said, the hospital insisted the judge had ruled for Israel’s life support to be disconnected immediately.


“Why won’t you give me that time?” Fonseca asked them, to which she was told to produce something from her lawyer to stop them.

Fonseca got Snyder on speaker phone while Snyder was awaiting a judge. Snyder asked the hospital for more time, but they refused.

And Fonseca swears Israel was aware of what was coming, appearing restless about it.

“Israel was grabbing at our hands. He started taking breaths off the ventilator,” she said. “I feel like he knew exactly what was going on. I feel like he knew what was about to happen.”

Fonseca wasn’t allowed near her son when the hospital pulled him from his life support.

“They blocked me from him,” she said.

“They wouldn’t even let me hold his hand,” Fonseca continued, with both hospital security and a doctor physically pushing her hand away from her son as he died. “I tried to run up to Israel to hold his hand.”

After the machines were unhooked, Fonseca said Israel took another breath.

“I started to scream, ‘Look! He’s trying to breath!’” with Snyder still listening on the phone.

After Israel’s life support was disconnected, she was allowed near him again. She began to perform CPR, but she then watched his body change color.

Fonseca and Stinson were told they had a few minutes with Israel before he was to be taken to the morgue. But that was it. They wouldn’t be allowed more time with him.

“That’s when I knew it was all so real,” she said. “That’s when I knew they took him in front of my own eyes. All in a big rush.”

“They treated us like we were criminals,” Fonseca said, “like we had done something wrong.”

“There was no respect for the family,” Snyder told LifeSiteNews. “And no respect for this little boy.”

How did this happen?

With Israel gone, questions remain for Fonseca.

“What was so bad about keeping him on life support?” she asked. “Why were they so adamant about taking him from me? … They said, ‘We can’t undo what Kaiser did, so why did they even take him?’”

“They’re going to be fine,” she continued. “No one will be held accountable.”

Having been through months of fighting for Israel’s life, leaving their home, jobs, and school to be with him in Guatemala, the family is holding up, she said, though sometimes she’s uncertain how.

“I really don’t know. It’s hard,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews. “I really thought he was going to wake up. I thought we were going to make it.”

“Someone in the hospital decided he was gone. Now he’s in heaven.”

Picking up the pieces

Thinking of her daughter and how she keeps their spirits up, Fonseca said she wants to work now to change laws for other families in this situation.

So many people have reached out to them, she said. So many people have gone through the same thing.

“I want parents to have their rights back to say when to let go,” Fonseca told LifeSiteNews. “I want to make sure he didn’t die in vain.”

The family was to have a private service for Israel on September 13.

“He was honestly the most loving kid I’ve ever met,” she said of her son.

“Anyone would tell you that he was so sweet. Any time he would give someone a hug, he wouldn’t let go until they did,” Fonseca said. “Israel left an imprint on anyone he would meet. Everyone loved him and he always made a new friend anywhere we went. All you’d have to do is look into his big beautiful brown eyes and you’d fall in love with him.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at LifeSiteNews [] and is reposted with permission.

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