By Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post Staff Writer Tue Sep 13, 1:00 AM ET
Susan Anne Catherine Torres, whose mother was declared brain-dead and kept on life-support for three months so she could be born, died early yesterday. She was 5 weeks and 5 days old.
The baby contracted a disease that can afflict premature infants, which led to an infection and a perforated intestine that finally overwhelmed her tiny body, according to hospital officials and the baby's uncle, Justin Torres, whose only public words yesterday were the ones he wrote.
"After the efforts of this summer to bring her into the world, this is obviously a devastating loss," he said in a statement.
"It was our fondest wish that we could have been able to share Susan's homecoming with the world," he wrote.
The long and sad medical odyssey that captivated thousands of strangers began in May, when the child's mother and namesake, Susan Rollin Torres of Arlington, was stricken with a cancerous brain tumor. She was 15 weeks pregnant at the time, and although doctors at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington gave her no chance of survival, her husband, Jason, and her parents agreed to try to keep her body alive with ventilators and machines so her baby might survive.
Despite the longest of odds, the baby was born by Caesarean section Aug. 2, about two months premature. Her mother, a 26-year-old researcher at the
National Institutes of Health, was taken off the machines and died the next day.
At the time, doctors said that the infant's prognosis was good and that at 1 pound 13 ounces she appeared "vigorous," even as she faced the obstacles of a premature birth.
A preliminary examination found that the melanoma that took her mother's life had not reached the placenta, and as the weeks passed, the child continued to grow.
This weekend, however, her condition deteriorated suddenly and rapidly, and she was transferred Saturday from the hospital in Arlington, where she had remained since her birth, to Children's Hospital in the District. She had developed necrotizing enterocolitis, essentially tissue death in the digestive tract. Doctors tried to stabilize her medically and performed two emergency surgeries, but it was all too much for the infant.
"Unfortunately, she was too sick and fragile to recover," the hospital said in a statement, "and we were unable to save her."
She died at 12:01 a.m. yesterday, and sadness was heaped upon sadness.