Grief And Joy Mingled For Family

A day after Jason Torres welcomed his daughter into the world, he said a last good-bye to his brain-dead wife who had been kept alive so the baby in her womb could live.

Susan Torres, 26, died after doctors removed her from life support Wednesday with the consent of her husband after she received the final sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church.

"He's hanging in," Justin Torres said about his brother in an interview Thursday on The Early Show. "It was a very difficult two days with a lot of ups and downs. But we knew for 12 weeks that yesterday was coming. That's still not enough time to prepare you. But he's hanging in. He's certainly very happy to see this baby."

And doctors are telling Torres that is no sign that the cancer that claimed his wife, had crossed the placenta to endanger the baby.

Susan Torres, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, suffered a stroke in May after aggressive melanoma spread to her brain. With no hope for recovery, her family decided to keep her alive to give her fetus a chance.

Dr. Christopher McManus, who coordinated care for Susan Torres, told The Early Show that the infant's chances of developing cancer are less than 25 percent. He said 19 women who have had the same aggressive form of melanoma as Torres have given birth, and five of their babies contracted the disease.

McManus said there were no signs the cancer had crossed the placenta, which would greatly increase the baby's risk for the disease. McManus said the placenta itself is being examined for any evidence of cancer.

It will take some time before the undersized premature infant goes home, he said.

It became a race between the fetus' development and the cancer that was ravaging the woman's body. Doctors said that Torres' health was deteriorating and that the risk of harm to the fetus finally outweighed the benefits of extending the pregnancy.

Torres gave birth to a daughter, Susan Anne Catherine Torres, by Caesarean section on Tuesday at Virginia Hospital Center. The baby was about two months premature and weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces. She was in the neonatal intensive care unit.

On Thursday, Dr. Donna Tilden-Archer, the hospital's director of neonatology, told The Early Show the baby is doing well.

"She's a beautiful baby," she said. "I checked in on her this morning. And she's breathing on her own. And she's only requiring a very small amount of oxygen. She was sleeping on her tummy very peacefully, doing quite well."

English-language medical literature contains at least 11 cases since 1979 of irreversibly brain-damaged women whose lives were prolonged for the benefit of the developing fetus, according to the University of Connecticut Health Center.


"She is very small and very premature," Dr. Tilden-Archer said. "We have to make sure that her breathing is stable and that she's able to breathe on her own. Once she's able to do that, we can concentrate on her nutrition to help her to grow and gain weight. Then, we're also very concerned with all premature babies about infection because their immune systems are so very weak. She's susceptible to anything that could come along. So we'll be very careful in watching for infection."

Jason Torres had quit his job to be by his wife's side, spending each night sleeping in a reclining chair next to her bed. The couple has one other child - 2-year-old Peter, who has been staying with his grandparents.

Earlier, Jason Torres issued a statement, saying: "We thank all of those who prayed and provided support for Susan, the baby and our family. We especially thank God for giving us little Susan. My wife's courage will never be forgotten."


A Web site, set up to help with the family's mounting medical bills, had raised more than $600,000 as of Tuesday. Any excess money will be donated to cancer research and to establish a college savings plan for the two children.
  • Tatiana Morales

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