For several hours Thursday, nurses at Suburban Hospital cradled the infant girl in their arms. She had been delivered from her fatally wounded mother, she was diagnosed as neurologically dead and still she appeared to breathe in a shallow, gasping way.
As time passed and the baby's breathing attempts appeared stronger, doctors renewed their lifesaving efforts. But sadly, the child, delivered after Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez, of Wheaton, was fatally shot, died last night.
Transferred to Children's Hospital late Thursday night, the infant remained in extremely critical condition with a "grave" prognosis yesterday before she died at 7:49 p.m.
Initial reports were that the baby had died at 3:45 p.m. Thursday after attempts by medical personnel failed to keep her alive. But by Thursday evening, as she continued to breathe, hospital officials proclaimed her still alive.
Meanwhile, Montgomery County police said yesterday that they have an arrest warrant for the child's apparent father, Raul Machado, 20, of Glen Burnie, in the shooting death of Rodriguez, his estranged wife. A recent emigrant from El Salvador, Rodriguez was shot in the head after an apparent argument in a relative's home in Wheaton. Police said Machado has gold teeth, drives a red Toyota pickup truck, is missing several fingers on one hand and is believed to be armed with the .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol used in the slaying.
Although the child's story captured the imagination, with its intimations of her coming back to life after a brush with death, she apparently experienced no more than what doctors expected in such a case, said John Davidson, spokesman at Suburban Hospital.
Delivered by Caesarean section from a mother who was quickly declared dead, the baby was determined to have no neurological response by doctors at Suburban Hospital and an expert neonatal team flown in by helicopter from Children's Hospital. The medical team stopped resuscitation efforts and "made the determination that the baby could not survive," Davidson said, and what happened next was "typical." The baby continued to breathe reflexively.
"We were told to expect this, that it would continue for minutes or hours, that this was normal, but this baby would not live," Davidson said.
Both he and Marge Kumaki, a spokeswoman at Children's Hospital, said that the child's condition did not worsen because she was removed from life-support apparatus, nor did her chance of survival decline because she was not on life-support systems again until she was transferred to Children's Hospital about 10 p.m. Thursday.
In the interim, Davidson said, nurses at Suburban continually held the child.
"During this entire period, nurses were holding the baby, giving it the human touch," he said. "There was quite a bit of compassion."