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Tinslee Lewis discharged from Fort Worth hospital amid legal battle to keep her alive

The Fort Worth toddler was sent home Thursday after being on a respirator most of her life.

By Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Tinslee Lewis
An undated photo shows Tinslee Lewis, who has been hospitalized for most of her life. / Photo Credit: Texas Right to Life / AP

Tinslee Lewis, a Fort Worth toddler who has been on a respirator most of her life, was sent home last week following a court battle to keep her alive at Cook Children’s Medical Center.

Tinslee was born prematurely in 2019 with a rare heart condition. When she was about 9 months old and set to be taken off life support, her mother, Trinity Lewis, began a legal battle with the hospital and keep her daughter alive.

“I’m sorry but I can’t hold it in any longer,” Lewis said in a Facebook post Thursday, “today my baby came home and I’m filled with joy and emotions right now.”

Her mother said in the Facebook post that Tinslee was doing well. Trinity Lewis thanked Cook Children’s for its efforts to keep Tinslee alive, and she also expressed gratitude for her family and Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion political organization that has publicized the case.

“Y’all have done everything in y’all power to help me and support me,” she said.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz told KDFW-TV (Channel 4) Wednesday that doctors switched Tinslee from being ventilated through her mouth to having a tracheotomy.

She said that Tinslee, who is currently on a portable ventilator, has 24-hour nursing care at home.

Texas Right to Life headed efforts that resulted in a Tarrant County judge signing a restraining order against the hospital before doctors could halt Tinslee’s treatment in November 2019.

A trial for Tinslee’s case was initially set for Jan. 25 but was postponed. Court documents say both parties were looking into alternative solutions, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A court was to decide whether her mother or the doctors in charge of her care should choose if she lives or dies.

The hospital’s ethics committee had ruled that it would be inappropriate to continue treating Tinslee, citing the Texas Advanced Directives Act, a 1999 law that allows the committee to make decisions when doctors and patients disagree on end-of-life care.

GOP officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, have shown support for the girl’s family and pledged to fight the law.

Tinslee’s heart defect is called Ebstein’s anomaly, in which a right heart valve sits lower than normal, making it difficult for her heart to pump properly and causing blood to flow backward through the heart. Her lungs were also underdeveloped, which is common in premature births, resulting in more stress on her lungs and heart. She was kept alive through open-heart surgery and a ventilator.

Lawyers for the hospital said in court documents in 2020 that Tinslee’s body had become stiff because she was unable to move and that her brain functions were permanently impaired because of her treatment.

“There remains no hope for recovery,” the court filings said.

Following Tinslee’s discharge, Cook Children’s Health Care System told the Star-Telegramthat medical teams at the hospital “have dedicated their lives to healing children, and go to tireless lengths to do what they believe in their hearts and minds to be the very best decision for each and every patient.”

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