Tinslee Lewis

Fort Worth Toddler Returns Home After Years-Long Legal Battle Over Life Support

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A Fort Worth toddler who has been on a respirator for most of her life has been sent home following a legal battle to keep her alive.

Tinslee Lewis has been at Cook Children’s Medical Center since 2019 after she was born with a rare heart condition. The defect is known as Ebstein’s anomaly, in which a right heart valve sits lower than normal. In past legal proceedings, officials with Cook Children's said the condition makes it difficult for her heart to pump properly and causes blood to flow backward through the heart. Her lungs were also underdeveloped, which is common in premature births.

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.

Her mother, Trinity Lewis, announced that the child had returned home on social media on Tuesday.

The post did not go into detail about whether Tinslee was still on a respirator, but her mother said she was doing well.

"I am truly blessed I was able to do everything I can to bring her home," Lewis said in the Facebook post. "She's doing so good."

After a years-long legal battle, Cook Children's Medical Center filed an appeal on April 16 asking the 48th District Court of Fort Worth to overturn a ruling that forced it to continue providing life-sustaining treatment for Tinslee.

Doctors said Tinslee was in pain and would never recover, arguing that she should be removed from life support. The hospital said it went to "extreme" lengths to keep her alive. While in the hospital, Tinslee was breathing with the assistance of a ventilator and was sedated but conscious.

Kimberlyn Schwartz is the Director of Media and Communication for Texas Right to Life, a pro-life organization that has been advocating for Tinslee and her family for the past nearly three years.

"It’s just so surreal to be at this point. Whenever we first got her case in 2019, I don’t think any of us knew that it would end in victory like this. We always knew there was a chance this could go south," Schwartz said. "This shows that whenever fight for life, we can win. I can’t believe that I’ve been so blessed to be part of Tinslee’s life. She is such a fighter, and I can’t wait to see what she does going forward."

Schwartz, whose organization provided attorneys for Tinslee's family, said the now three-year-old is using a portable ventilator. Tinslee still has appointments with doctors along with home healthcare and respiratory therapists, she said.

Their fight isn't over, Schwartz said Wednesday.

"Our goal was to immediately save her life. We sought attorneys to try to win her a temporary restraining order that would prevent this 10-day rule from prematurely ending her life," she said.

The "10-day rule" gives families 10 days to find a new hospital if they disagree with doctors who decide to take a patient off life support.

"We want the court to see that Tinslee was saved. Tinslee is a success story. We need to protect more patients like her," Schwartz said.

In the Facebook post announcing Tinslee's return home, her mother thanked her lawyers as well as Cook Children's Medical Center. A statement from the medical center was sent to NBC 5:

“The medical teams at Cook Children’s 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.” - Cook Children’s Health Care System

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