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12 Year Old 'Brain Dead' Boy Breathing on His Own after Hospital Tried to End Life Support against Parent's Wishes

( [email protected] ) Feb 09, 2015 01:56 PM EST

Joey Cronin
12 year old Joey Cronin slipped into a coma after experiencing a severe asthma attack on January 14. (Photo: Shutterstock)

A 12-year-old boy who became comatose after experiencing an asthma attack began breathing on his own just after doctors encouraged his parents to take him off life support because they believed he was "brain dead."  

Since January 14, Joey Cronin of Texas has been at Driscoll Children's Hospital after going into cardiac arrest due to a severe asthma attack.

Although the young boy, who is an honor-roll student at his middle school, showed signs of awareness even while in a comatose state, including gripping his parents hands and responding to external stimulants, medical experts were convinced he would never wake up.

"They were very negative," Joey's father, George Cronin, told LifeSiteNews last week.  "On the night he came in, they told me it could be a matter of hours before they would have to [remove Joey from life support]."  

Because testing showed Joey still had significant brain function, the hospital was forced to keep the boy on his ventilator. However, they refused to install a feeding tube, depriving Joey of any nutrition. 

Within a few days, Joey slipped into a coma, prompting hospital officials to push his parents to declare him brain dead, which would have legally allowed them to remove him from life support against his parents' wishes.

Refusing to give up, the Cronins approached the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal defense group, in an attempt to force the hospital to keep Joey alive until he could be transferred safely to another hospital, where he could undergo life-saving treatment.

While two other healthcare facilities offered to take Joey in, the Cronins were concerned about whether Driscoll Children's would give Joey the care he needed to stay strong enough for transfer.  

Thankfully, within a short time, attorneys with ADF were eventually able to obtain a court order forcing the hospital to provide a feeding tube and nutrition for Joey.

Within hours of receiving a feeding tube, the boy began chewing on his ventilator tube, prompting the hospital to give him a tracheostomy so that he could breathe on his own without damaging his throat. A short time later, he began wiggling his toes.

"I noticed some responses, some larger body movements, in response to what was going on in the room, and so that was a good sign," attorney Stephen Casey told OneNewsNow. "Cases like this, they turn on a dime. It can go up or down depending on very small, tiny changes of circumstances."

Today, the Cronins, elated at their son's progress, are hopeful that Joey will be sent to another facility within this week.

"They said he's pretty much ready any day now,"  George Cronin said, adding that Driscoll Children's Hospital is now much more supportive of his son's care.  "Everything's fine; they're cooperating with us now...We don't want to paint them as the bad guys."

While the Cronins have health insurance, it remains unclear how much of Joey's care - especially his transfer - will be covered by their policy, according to LifeSiteNews. Additionally, George Cronin has had to take an unpaid leave of absence from his job in order to be at Joey's bedside.  The family is asking for donations to be sent via PayPal [email protected]