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Brain-dead Virginia woman gives birth to baby

girl after months on life support

 

RICHMOND, Va. - A brain-dead pregnant woman who has been kept on life

support to give her fetus more time to develop gave birth to a baby girl Tuesday,

 the woman's brother-in-law said.

There were no complications during delivery and the baby "is doing well," Justin Torres wrote

in an e-mail to The Associated Press. The baby, Susan Anne Catherine Torres, weighs one

 pound 13 ounces and is 13 1/2 inches long, he said.

Susan Torres, 26, a researcher at the

National Institutes of Health, lost consciousness from a stroke May 7 after aggressive melanoma

spread to her brain. Her husband, Jason Torres, said doctors told him his wife's brain functions had stopped.

Jason Torres quit his job to be by his wife's side, and last month her fetus passed the 24th week

 of development, the earliest point at which doctors felt the baby would have a reasonable chance

 to survive, the brother-in-law said.

A website to help raise money for the family's mounting medical bills had received about $400,000

 US in donations from around the world as of two weeks ago, Justin Torres said. The family said it

 must pay tens of thousands of dollars each week that insurance does not cover.

Doctors had hoped to hold off on delivering the child until 32 weeks' gestation. A full-term pregnancy

 is about 40 weeks.

The infant is being monitored in the Neonatal Intensive Care at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington,

 about 160 kilometres north of Richmond.

Telephone messages left for the brother-in-law and a hospital spokeswoman were not immediately returned.

Since 1979, there have been at least a dozen similar cases published in English medical literature,

said Dr. Winston Campbell, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Connecticut Health

Center, which conducted research on the topic.

                               

 

Brain-Dead Mother Is Taken Off Life Support

AUGUST.4.2005 

 

After her husband and parents said their last goodbyes and after a priest

offered a prayer -- words about weeping in a valley of tears -- Susan Torres,

her improbable mission accomplished, was unhooked yesterday morning from

the machines that sustained not only her body but that of her baby for the past

three months

 

The 26-year-old Arlington woman, who was felled by cancer and declared brain-dead in May, but

who gave birth by Caesarean section Tuesday to the girl she had hoped for, died shortly thereafter.

It was the end her family knew was inevitable, but it was no less difficult to fathom.

"We are thrilled with the baby, but this is a very difficult day," Justin Torres,

Susan Torres's brother-in-law,

 said at a news conference at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. He added that years from now,

 he would certainly tell his

 niece about the woman who brought her into the world.

"I'm going to tell her her mother was one of the toughest women I've ever met, that she was

absolutely determined in what she did. . . . And that, 'You cannot believe how many people

fought for you,' " he said.

Jason Torres, who slept by his wife's side for three months, whose cell phone still carries her voice

and who made the final decision to unhook the machines, stayed away from the cameras and crowds

of reporters who had come to the hospital to find out, among other things, how his new daughter,

Susan Anne Catherine Torres, was doing.

The answer, a team of doctors said, was pretty well.

At a gestational age of 27 weeks, at 1 pound 13 ounces, the baby came out crying, kicking and "very vigorous,

" said Donna Tilden-Archer, medical director of neonatology at the hospital. The infant is breathing on her

own, receiving supplemental

 oxygen and pressure to keep her tiny airspace open. Her heart appears normal and is beating regularly.

An initial examination of the placenta showed no signs of the melanoma that had spread throughout

Susan Torres's body, and further microscopic testing is being conducted, said Christopher McManus, the

 attending physician. There is no

way to say for certain whether the baby will develop melanoma. In similar cases in which the placenta

is afflicted with melanoma, babies

develop the cancer less than 25 percent of the time.

The baby's premature birth presents additional complications, such as immature digestive, respiratory

and immune systems, but again, Tilden-Archer said, the child who had about everything going against her

 now has statistics on her side:

Babies born at 27 weeks survive about 90 percent of the time. "We are ecstatic she is here," Tilden-Archer

 said, "and that she seems

 to be healthy."

The decision to deliver the baby came somewhat suddenly, nearly three months after Susan Torres

lost consciousness, was declared brain-dead and was left on a ventilator, IVs and other machines in

 the long-shot hope her baby

 might grow faster than her cancer.

Torres had had melanoma as a teenager but had long been given a clean bill of health; doctors

 said the melanoma apparently lay dormant for those years.

By the time she reached the hospital, doctors said, the melanoma had metastasized in her

brain, and she was declared brain-dead within days. The cancer eventually spread throughout

 her brain, her lymph nodes, her lungs, her

adrenal glands and her liver, and it had begun to spread even more quickly in recent days.

Then her blood pressure dropped, her

 heart began beating irregularly and her white blood cell count spiked, raising concerns

about infection.

After three months, it seemed that all the sophisticated machinery medicine had to

offer could not overcome the momentum of her body. Ultimately, said Rodney McLaren,

 medical director for maternal-fetal medicine

at the hospital, the risks of keeping the baby in her mother's womb outweighed the

risks of delivering her prematurely.

And so, on Monday night, the decision was made.

About 7 a.m. Tuesday, Susan Torres, who had been a microbiologist with the

 

National Institutes of Health, was wheeled into an operating room. Jason Torres and her parents were

 outside, and when the baby came, they were able to see her through a glass window, doctors said.

 She is 13.5 inches long.

Justin Torres said it was a wonderful moment and that his brother, who had not slept in days, was

 overjoyed. Everyone "took a real deep breath," he said, adding that Jason marveled at the size of

 his little girl's fingers and feet.

At the same time, Justin Torres said, "we knew what was coming next."

Only 12 similar cases have been reported in the medical literature since the 1970s.

Jason Torres met his wife in college and has said that he always admired her competitive spirit and

strong will. The couple had a son, Peter, now 2, and were happy to get the news that another baby was

 on the way. When Jason Torres

made the decision to try to save the baby in May, he was certain it was what his wife, who refused testing

 for birth defects, would have

 wanted.

In the months that followed, he slept by her side, held her hand and talked to her and their baby.

 He accepted the doctor's diagnosis that his wife had no hope of recovery, but talking made things

 a bit easier, Justin Torres has said.

Other things did, as well. Yesterday, Justin Torres said that the family, which is Catholic, had

 "literally been lifted up in prayer."

He said that he and his brother would sometimes sit in the intensive care unit and read letters sent

 from around the world and down the street. Besides money to help with staggering medical bills,

 people have sent such items as baby

 blankets. A woman sent them a series of photos of her baby, who was born at 26 weeks, showing

how she grew up healthy and strong.

Yesterday morning, Torres said, his brother made the decision to turn off the ventilator and

machines. The Rev. Paul Scalia offered Susan Torres the last rites of the Catholic church and

 said a prayer, "Hail, Holy Queen."

"Her passing is a testament to the truth that human life is a gift from God," Justin Torres said

 "and that children are always to be fought for, even if life requires -- as it did of Susan -- the last full measure of devotion."

 

 

Dead Woman on Life Support in Virginia
 
Gives Birth to Baby Girl
 
Tuesday, August .02. 2005
A brain-dead pregnant woman who has been kept on life support to give her fetus more

 time to develop gave birth to a baby girl Tuesday, the woman's brother-in-law said.

There were no complications during delivery and the baby "is doing well," Justin Torres

 wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. The baby, Susan Anne Catherine Torres, weighs

one pound 13 ounces and is 13 1/2 inches long, he said.

Susan Torres, a 26-year-old researcher at the National Institutes of Health, lost consciousness

from a stroke May 7 after aggressive melanoma spread to her brain. Her husband, Jason Torres,

said doctors told him his wife's brain functions had stopped.

Jason Torres quit his job to be by his wife's side, and last month her fetus passed the 24th week

of development _ the earliest point at which doctors felt the baby would have a reasonable chance

to survive, the brother-in-law said.

A Web site to help raise money for the family's mounting medical bills had received about $400,000

in donations from around the world as of two weeks ago, Justin Torres said. The family said it must

pay tens of thousands of dollars each week that insurance does not cover.

Doctors had hoped to hold off on delivering the child until 32 weeks' gestation. A full-term pregnancy is about 40 weeks.

The infant is being monitored in the Neonatal Intensive Care at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington,

about 100 miles north of Richmond.

Telephone messages left for the brother-in-law and a hospital spokeswoman were not immediately returned.

Since 1979, there have been at least a dozen similar cases published in English medical literature, said

 Dr. Winston Campbell, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center,

which conducted research on the topic.

 

On May 7th, 2005, the day before Mothers' Day, Susan M. (Rollins)

 Torres -- a 26-year-old vaccine researcher at NIH; mother of a

two-year-old son, Peter; graduate of the University of Dallas; and

parishioner at St. Rita's Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia collapsed.

 She was rushed to the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, where

 she has been diagnosed with stage four melanoma and is brain dead

with no hope of recovery.

Susan was 17 weeks pregnant at the time and although the doctors

have given her no hope of survival, they are fighting to keep her unborn

child alive until at least July 11 where he or she will have a viable chance

 at life.

Her family is really starting to show signs of the strain this is causing;

 mentally, physically and financially. In an effort to escalate the awareness

of their situation, and to help raise additional funds, friends of the Torres

family have established The Susan M. Torres Fund to help defray the $1,500

a day ICU medical costs that insurance does not cover.

Please help this family by sending a donation. Any amount is appreciated

and it is tax deductible. Donations can be sent to:

 

        

 

 

The Susan M. Torres Fund
c/o Faith and Action
P.O. Box 34105
Washington, D.C. 20043-0105

 

or online through PayPal LINK TO THERE WEB SITE

HERE  http://www.susantorresfund.org/

                        THANK YOU

 

 

 

 

              NEWS STORY ON JULY.21.2005 

 

Brain-Dead Woman's Fetus Reaches Milestone

Family Finds Renewed Hope for a Successful Birth

 

RICHMOND, Va. (July 20) -- A brain-dead pregnant woman on life support has reached the

 milestone in her pregnancy where doctors believe the baby could realistically survive outside

 the womb, giving her family renewed hope about the devastating ordeal.

Susan Torres, 26, lost consciousness from a stroke May 7 after aggressive melanoma spread

 to her brain. Her husband, Jason Torres, said doctors told him his wife's brain functions had stopped.

Her fetus recently passed the 24th week of development - the earliest point at which doctors

 felt the baby would have a reasonable chance to survive, her brother-in-law said.

''The situation is pretty stable,'' said Justin Torres, who is serving as the family's spokesman.

 ''Susan, we have said from the beginning, is the toughest person in that ICU room.''

He said the family is ''as certain within the limits of sonogram technology'' that the baby is a

girl. ''Cecilia'' was one possible name the couple had discussed, Justin Torres said.

A Web site was set up to help raise money for the family's mounting medical bills, and they have

 now received about $400,000 in donations, Torres said. Jason Torres quit his job as a printing

 salesman to be by his wife's side and the family must pay tens of thousands of dollars each

week that insurance does not cover, the family says.

Donations have poured in from around the world: Germany, Britain, Ireland, Japan - even a

check with no note from a soldier in Iraq. On Monday, the family received a hand-knit baby

blanket from a woman in Pennsylvania who was on a tight income but wanted to do something

 to help.

Jason Torres spends every night sleeping in a reclining chair next to his wife's bed at Virginia

 Hospital Center in Arlington, about 100 miles north of Richmond. The hospital has declined to

 comment on the case.

The couple's 2-year-old son, Peter, is staying with grandparents. He has not seen his mother,

 a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, since her collapse.

If possible, the doctors hope to hold off on delivering the child until 32 weeks' gestation, Justin

Torres said. A full-term pregnancy is about 40 weeks.

The melanoma has spread to her lymph nodes and taken over her vital organs, but they continue

to function. There is a chance the cancer could spread to the placenta, but so far it has been

spared, Justin Torres said. Extra precautions, including limiting the number of visitors, have

recently been taken to help her avoid infections.

Doctors have held off on giving the family a prognosis because the situation is so rare, said

Torres, who believes his sister-in-law will likely hang on for a few more weeks.

Since 1979, there have been at least a dozen similar cases published in English medical

literature, said Dr. Winston Campbell, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of

Connecticut Health Center, which conducted research on the topic.

Aside from the tubes and machines she is hooked up to, the tall and athletic Torres looks remarkably

well, her brother-in-law said.

''She would have wanted us to fight for this baby - there's no doubt in our minds,'' Justin Torres said.

The family received an unexpected sliver of joy on June 21, when Jason Torres felt his child kick for

 the first time.

''It was a very, very nice reminder of what this is all about, and very heartening to us to know that we're

 making progress and that we're getting closer and closer,'' the brother-in-law said. ''That was a very

 good day for everyone.''

 

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