As reported by The Hartford Courant, August 6, 2005.

Gifts of Life

Saga of Brain-Dead Virginia Mother Stirs Connecticut Woman’s Memories

By Hilary Waldman

Gayle Garcia was surfing the Internet at home in Torrington the other day when news that a brain-dead woman in Virginia had given birth to a tiny baby girl brought back a rush of memories.

Could six years have passed since Garcia's daughter, Katie, lingered on life support in the intensive care unit at John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington while her family counted the days until the fetus growing inside her was big enough to enter the world?

Garcia found an e-mail address for a group raising money for Susan Anne Catherine Torres, the baby born Tuesday to a Virginia mother who had a stroke after aggressive skin cancer invaded her brain.

"I e-mailed Mr. Torres to tell him I had gone through this," said Garcia, 53, a bank employee who has been raising her grandson, Andy, since he was delivered by Caesarean section Nov. 5, 1998. "I said it's going to be fine."

Garcia's ordeal began in July 1998, when her 23-year-old daughter was rushed to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington after her boyfriend found her slumped in her home. Scans showed massive bleeding in her brain.

She was transferred to John Dempsey Hospital at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where her condition continued to deteriorate. Although she was never declared brain dead because she continued to have seizures, doctors were certain that she would never awaken from a coma.

Because Katie Garcia was not married, Gayle Garcia was chosen to speak for her daughter. Katie already had a 4-year-old son, Antonio, and Gayle knew Katie was looking forward to the birth of her second child.

Gayle Garcia met with the hospital's ethics committee at UConn and agreed to keep Katie, then 16 weeks pregnant, on life support until the fetus could survive outside her body.

On Nov. 5, Katie's grand mal seizures made it impossible for her body to sustain the pregnancy any longer. The baby weighed 3 pounds 5 ounces and Gayle named him Andrew Garcia, after her own son. Katie was removed from the machines and died a short time later.

Garcia said she chose her son's name for the baby because in those early, tenuous days in the neonatal intensive care unit she was not even sure she would be entrusted to take the baby home. If the baby shared her son's name, she reasoned, maybe it would be easier for him to find his real family someday if he were put in foster care or up for adoption.

To Garcia's tremendous relief, her worst fears never came true.

In the six years since she took the baby home to the small apartment where she also is raising Antonio, now 11, Andy has grown into a healthy boy who will start first grade in the fall. He is having trouble recognizing numbers and putting letters together to form words, but he is happy and Garcia has never looked back.

The children's father died in a car accident three years ago, and Garcia said she has been so busy with Antonio, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Andy that she has not had much time lately to relive that awful time when she lost Katie.

She recently called Dr. Winston Campbell, the director of maternal-fetal medicine at the UConn Health Center, who five years ago published an article detailing Katie's case in the journal Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey.

In researching the Garcia case, Campbell found that since 1979, there have been 11 cases documented in English-language journals of pregnant women who have been kept on life support in an effort to deliver healthy babies. The Torres case makes it a dozen.

Reminded of her time in the hospital when Campbell and his colleagues were caring for Katie, Garcia said she called him to find out if he knew how any of those other babies he researched are doing. She is worried about Andy's future and wonders if having been kept alive in his mother's dying body contributed to his learning problems.

Campbell said in an interview Thursday that most of the other cases he looked at followed the progress of babies only until they were about 3 months old. He said he knows of no longer-term studies following babies such as Andy Garcia and Susan Torres as they grow and develop.

Campbell said all he really knows is that technology allows doctors to keep a comatose patient's organs alive and that fetuses seem to develop normally while their mothers are on life support. What the children's future holds is an unanswered question.