Susan Torres, an Alexandria woman felled by a cerebral hemorrhage in her 17th week of pregnancy, has a new set of due dates for her unborn child.
When she collapsed May 7, doctors were not sure she would last a week, much less until mid-July, the earliest a child could survive outside the womb.
But as of today , Mrs. Torres, 26, has entered her 26th week of pregnancy. Her husband, Jason, and family are hoping the baby can stay in utero until at least mid-August.
“If we can get to the 28th week, we’re in pretty good shape,” says her brother-in-law, Justin Torres. “Thirty-two weeks would be the outside limit. But we’ll deliver when the situation warrants and when it happens, it’s likely to be quick.”
That’s because Mrs. Torres’ body is riddled with melanoma, a form of cancer.
Officially brain-dead, Mrs. Torres is a living incubator, hooked up to machines that keep her breathing and hydrated. Sonograms show she is carrying an active little girl.
“She keeps kicking away,” Justin Torres said.
At this point, the child weighs about one pound and is 10 or more inches long. Although her ears will not fully mature until the 28th week, she is starting to respond to the world around her, to music, sudden noises and pats on the mother’s abdomen. But she will not open her eyes until near the end of her sixth month of gestation.
The room to the left of Mrs. Torres’ quarters in the intensive-care unit of the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington has been outfitted as a delivery room in case doctors need to make a sudden dash into surgery if her organs begin to shut down.
Until then, the family waits.
The saga of keeping the mother alive for the sake of the child, first reported in the secular press June 16 by The Washington Times and USA Today, has turned into a media phenomenon.
About 50 media outlets from around the world have contacted the hospital or the Torres family for a story. On June 30, the two Torres brothers appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
“No one ever expects to end up on the Larry King show,” Justin Torres said. “It was not a happy moment, but I thought, ‘Wow, my God, I can’t believe it.’”
The publicity helped bring in about $400,000, to offset the $8,500-a-day cost — only part of which is covered by insurance — of keeping the mother hooked up to various machines. Reserving the extra room in the ICU is also driving up costs. Expenses will skyrocket if the baby is premature.
A Web site, www.susantorresfund.org, posts almost daily updates and press clips. Some friends are processing mail crates full of contributions, which range from a check from a U.S. soldier in Baghdad to $7 in change from a New Jersey boy who sent his life savings.
Meanwhile, the hospital has posted a guard near the ICU to deter uninvited visitors, and Jason Torres avoids press interviews to concentrate on caring for his two-year-old son, Peter.
“He wants to be focused where he wants to be focused,” his brother-in-law said. “It’s been a very strange summer.”