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Jesse is improving, lawyer says

Boy with brain tumor is now under hospice and family care

The 6-year-old boy who doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center said was brain dead has been out of the hospital a week now, and his lawyer says the boy's condition in some ways has improved.

"His vital signs are very stable," said attorney David Pace, who represents young Jesse Koochin and his parents, Steve and Gayle.

"He had a blood workup yesterday, and his hemoglobin has improved dramatically since last week," Pace said. "His body is moving spontaneously. His feet flex and twitch back when they're rubbed."

Pace said Jesse is processing nutrients through an IV into his stomach and appears to be functioning well. "He's a very warm, beautiful boy."

Jesse is being attended by a hospice care doctor and nurses, as well as his family. "The hospice care doctor says the current situation is ideal for Steve and Gayle and Jesse," Pace said, adding that when he visited them on Thursday evening, a volunteer was playing the harp in a "very soothing" environment.

The boy was hospitalized at Primary Children's from Sept. 15 until Oct. 15 with what doctors said was a brain tumor that is incurable and inoperable. Doctors there said the tumor had tripled in size and pushed his brain stem down through his skull, cutting off his blood supply to the brain. Two doctors who conducted two separate protocols agreed the boy was brain dead, and hospital officials told the parents that Jesse's ventilator would be disconnected at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 13.

But the Koochins insisted their son was still alive and wanted to take him from the hospital to provide continued health care with both conventional and alternative medical methods. Only hours before the disconnection deadline, 3rd District Judge Sheila McCleve signed a restraining order directing the hospital not to stop the ventilator without the court's permission and restoring custody of Jesse to his parents.

The Koochins subsequently took him from the hospital to a private setting so they and hospice care employees could take care of him.

The judge scheduled a hearing for Oct. 27 to determine whether the restraining order should stay in place or not.

Pace said things might be worked out with the hospital in such a way to render the court order unnecessary, but the family wants to be certain that Jesse still can make use of the respirator provided by Intermountain Health Care and that Primary Children's won't try to interfere.

"I feel we'll accomplish what we want to legally as long as we can ensure Primary Children's doesn't feel a need to interfere with the care that Jesse is getting," Pace said.

When Jesse was taken from the hospital, his father rescinded permission for Primary Children's Medical Center to discuss the case with the media. Federal guidelines prohibit a hospital from releasing any information about a patient without permission.


E-mail: lois@desnews.com; lindat@desnews.com