Brain activity detected; abused Baby Dinah remains on life support

Virtually the entire day Thursday, family members expected that doctors would remove little Dinah Paige Whited from life support. But a last-minute test canceled those plans when doctors discovered some activity in the battered infant's brain, family members said.

The development shocked family members, who were preparing for doctors to remove the baby from life support. It was not clear Thursday exactly what that activity was or what it signifies.

“They did some new tests and found blood flowing to the brain,” said paternal grandmother Kimberlee Page.

Dinah was severely beaten in April — her parents were both charged with child cruelty — and has been at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston on life support ever since.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter spent Wednesday evening with the baby’s family at the hospital, where doctors performed one of several tests to determine whether Dinah is brain dead. During the test, Dinah was removed from the ventilator to see whether she could breathe on her own. She did not breathe for several minutes before doctors placed her back on life support, her maternal grandmother, Paige Cason-Barrett, said.

An additional test performed Thursday had a surprising outcome. Family members were not clear on exactly which test discovered the brain activity or how much activity was present.

“They discovered a little brain activity, and that put a halt on it,” said the girl’s maternal stepgrandfather, Johnny Barrett. “Everything is back to square one.”

It remains unclear to what degree the test results will affect some family members’ hopes to have the girl removed from life support. Dinah has been on life support at Egleston since April 23.

“I don’t know. We’ve been up all night and we’re kind of numb,” Barrett said. “We want to go home and get a good night’s sleep, and get ready to face tomorrow, whatever tomorrow may hold.”

In her room in the pediatric intensive-care unit, Dinah appeared motionless on Wednesday night. She had tubes in her nose and mouth. She looked pale and family members said she felt a little cool. They put on her red socks. A teddy bear lay at the foot of her metal hospital crib.

Dinah was only 7 weeks old when Monroe police arrested her father, Justin Whited, and her mother, Jamie Cason Whited. Justin Whited was charged with child cruelty and aggravated battery; Jamie Whited was charged with child cruelty for failing to protect her baby, police said.

When Dinah arrived at Egleston on April 23, doctors found she had bleeding on the brain, several broken ribs and two fractures of her collarbone.

Both parents have claimed they are not responsible for the baby’s injuries, authorities say.

Dinah gained public attention and sympathy when it became apparent that her father, who police say is responsible for the abuse, also had the final word on removing her from life support.

He had declined to agree to removing the child from life support, even after the baby’s mother agreed to the measure. Authorities say that should the child die, the charges against Justin Whited could escalate to murder.

If the tests had concluded the girl was brain dead, that apparently would have enabled the hospital to legally remove the baby from life support.

The baby’s death would have brought an end to a looming court battle between the two sets of grandparents over custody of the child.

The maternal grandparents, Paige Cason-Barrett and Johnny Barrett, had filed a court petition to obtain custody and take the child off of life support. The petition, filed in Walton County Juvenile Court, asserts that Dinah is in a “persistent vegetative state” and that doctors say it is unlikely she will recover.

“Her bodily functions are slowly declining and she is likely to suffer as she dies unless life support is removed,” said the petition, which the AJC reviewed under the state Open Records Law.

Noting that both of the child’s parents remain in jail, the petition said, “Neither parent is in a place to make an objective determination in the best interest of the child.”

The maternal grandparents also noted that they are fully aware of Dinah’s medical treatment and remain in close contact with the medical team.

Dinah’s paternal grandparents, Kimberlee and Stanley Page, have also filed court papers requesting that Dinah come under their care.

Kimberlee Page said she had planned to remove Dinah from life support. On Thursday, after the new test, she said she would have to consider it before making up her mind as to what should be done.

She also asserted the innocence of her son, saying that he was a loving husband and father.

“All Justin ever wanted was a wife and children,” she said.