Trenton McKinley: ‘brain-dead’ boy wakes up hours before organ donation

Doctors were preparing to take 13-year-old off life support when he regained consciousness

Trenton McKinley
(Image credit: Facebook)

A 13-year-old boy declared incurably brain-dead regained consciousness hours before doctors were due to pull him off life support, his mother has told US media.

Trenton McKinley’s parents had signed forms allowing his organs to be used for transplants after doctors told them that their unresponsive son would never recover from a traumatic brain injury.

However, days later, he was talking, reading and even playing basketball from his wheelchair after making a sudden recovery which his family insist is a miracle.

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McKinley, from Mobile, Alabama suffered severe brain trauma after a freak accident at a friend’s house in March.

The teen was riding in a trailer being pulled by a dune buggy when the cart flipped and threw him headfirst to the ground, fracturing his skull in seven places.

“I hit the concrete and the trailer landed on top of my head,” he said. “After that, I don't remember anything.”

Doctors later estimated that McKinley had been clinically dead for around 15 minutes, which would cause devastating and irreversible damage to his brain.

After several surgeries, he remained unresponsive, relying on doses of adrenaline to keep his heart beating.

“They said the next time his heart stopped they had to let him die,” his mother, Jennifer Reindl, said in a Facebook post. “Or I could sign a paper to donate his organs to save five other kids and they would keep hitting him with adrenaline til Monday… so I signed it.”

“I knew he would not hesitate to save five more lives,” she said. “The next day I got a call… right before they hooked him up his hand moved.”

Over the next days and weeks, McKinley made a rapid recovery that astonished his family. “From no brain waves to now walking and talking and reading, doing math,” she told CBS. “A miracle.”

Despite his odds-defying return from the brink of death, McKinley faces a long road to recovery. He suffers from seizures and nerve damage and will require surgery to reattach part of his skull. Reindl has started a fundraising page to help the family cope with medical expenses.

McKinley told local news station WALA-TV that he had experienced unusual visions while unconscious which convinced him there was a divine force behind his miracle recovery.

“I was in an open field walking straight,” he said. “There's no other explanation but God. There's no other way. Even doctors said it.”

University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, where McKinley was treated, has not commented on the case.

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