- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A girl whose premature birth to a brain-dead, cancer-stricken mother last month made medical history died early yesterday of heart failure at Children’s Hospital in the District.

Susan Anne Catherine Torres was 5 weeks and 5 days old. She had been faring well at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington but on Friday was rushed to Children’s for emergency surgery to repair a perforated intestine.

“The team initially tried to medically stabilize her, but ultimately performed two surgeries,” the hospital said yesterday. “Unfortunately, she was too sick and fragile to recover, and we were unable to save her.”

The Rev. Denis Donahue of St. Rita Catholic Church in Alexandria — the Torres family’s parish — had been with the family at the hospital late Sunday when it appeared that Susan had been stabilized.

Shortly after he left, he got a call saying she had died at 12:01 a.m.

“It’s a very sad day for the family,” Father Donahue said. “We were so hoping she’d survive. We’re supporting the family with prayer, hoping they know many people are pulling for them.”

The official cause of Susan’s death was “necrotizing enterocolitis,” an often deadly intestinal infection in premature infants in which a hole forms in the intestine and bacteria leak into the abdominal cavity.

The infection “overwhelmed” Susan’s weak immune system, resulting in massive organ failure, the hospital said.

When Susan was delivered by Caesarean section Aug. 2, she was 13 weeks premature and weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces.

But she was free of the melanoma that killed her mother, Susan Torres, 26, who collapsed May 7 of a brain hemorrhage.

The family’s efforts to keep Mrs. Torres’ body functioning for almost three months to give her daughter a chance to live drew international attention.

Mrs. Torres, a vaccine researcher at the National Institutes of Health, died shortly after being removed from life support on Aug. 3.

By Aug. 23, Susan had passed the 2-pound mark, was breathing on her own, was ingesting formula and was growing “like a weed,” according to an entry on the Web site www.susantorresfund.org.

The family called the baby’s death “a devastating loss,” especially for her father, Jason Torres, and her 2-year-old brother, Peter.

“We wish to thank all the people who sustained us in prayer over the past 17 weeks,” it said. “It was our fondest wish that we could have been able to share Susan’s homecoming with the world.”

The family will have a private funeral Mass presided over by the Rev. Paul Scalia of St. Rita’s.

“At this painful moment of redoubled loss, we commend Jason and the entire Torres family to the Lord in prayer,” Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde said. “Confident that Susan Anne Catherine Torres is already reunited with her mother, we thank the Lord for their witness and for the gift of their courageous lives.

“May the Lord draw close to the Torres family at this time and provide them with comfort and peace where words fail.”

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