A 'Vigorous' Beginning for N.Va. Preemie

Susan Anne Catherine Torres, born by Caesarean section Tuesday, is the namesake of her mother, who was taken off life support Wednesday. The baby will remain hospitalized until her normal due date in about three months.
Susan Anne Catherine Torres, born by Caesarean section Tuesday, is the namesake of her mother, who was taken off life support Wednesday. The baby will remain hospitalized until her normal due date in about three months. (Susantorresfund.org)
By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 5, 2005

Susan Anne Catherine Torres, whose mother, Susan Torres, was declared brain-dead but kept on life support for three months so her child might live, continued to do well yesterday at an Arlington hospital a day after her mother died.

"She's still vigorous, so that's a good sign," said Kristen Peifer, a hospital spokeswoman.

The baby, 13.5 inches long and weighing 1 pound 13 ounces, was born by Caesarean section at Virginia Hospital Center on Tuesday, about 13 weeks premature.

She faces such challenges as immature digestive, respiratory and immune systems, but they are ones that doctors are accustomed to handling. She is being monitored in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The baby will remain hospitalized until her normal due date arrives in about three months, said Donna Tilden-Archer, medical director of neonatology at the hospital. Babies born at 27 weeks, as she was, survive about 90 percent of the time, Tilden-Archer said.

Susan Torres, of Arlington, lost consciousness May 7 when a cancerous brain tumor began to bleed. A few days later, she was declared brain-dead with no hope of recovery.

When she was 17, Torres received a diagnosis of melanoma, one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, and a malformed freckle was removed from her arm. She was given a clean bill of health, but the cancer apparently lay dormant in her body for the next nine years, her doctors said, adding that they do not know what may have triggered it.

Some research has suggested that pregnancy may be a trigger, but the evidence has been unconvincing, doctors said.

An initial examination showed that the melanoma did not reach Torres's placenta, which has been sent for further microscopic testing. A 2003 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that of 27 cases in which melanoma reached the placenta, the fetus was affected six times. In five of those six cases, the infants died -- one after 12 hours and another after two years.

Jason Torres, the baby's father, who slept at his wife's side for three months, decided to make their story public in the hopes of raising money to help pay staggering medical bills. The family posts updates from time to time on a Web site, http://susantorresfund.org/ .


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