As reported by The Dallas Morning News, May 16, 2007.
Woman Lived Just Long Enough to Give Birth: Dallas
By Kim Breen and Chris Hawes
May 16--A Dallas high school teacher kept on life support for a month so she could give birth died on Mother's Day, two days after her daughter was born.
Stacy Rojas suffered an aneurysm over Easter weekend. She was brain dead but kept alive at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas so her baby could grow closer to full term.
Zoe Sofia Rojas was born Friday, Ms. Rojas' husband, Marcus, said Tuesday. He'll appear on ABC's Good Morning America this morning.
Ms. Rojas was a little more than 29 weeks' pregnant when Zoe was delivered by Caesarean section. Doctors decided to deliver the baby more than two months early because Ms. Rojas developed pneumonia, Mr. Rojas said. The baby weighed 3 pounds, 3 ounces.
Mr. Rojas was able to hold his tiny, fragile daughter on Tuesday for the first time. Doctors told him that she should be able to come home in July.
"You know people have that certain smell about them in a positive sense. ... She's been in her body this whole time; she smells like Stacy," he said.
"You're a beautiful little girl," he told his daughter. "You're going to be so great." He talked to her about her mother. "Her spirit will be with us both."
Ms. Rojas' organs were donated before she was taken off life support.
The couple had been together for 16 years, married for 11.
Ms. Rojas was a popular chemistry teacher at Molina High School in west Oak Cliff.
"She was one of the greatest teachers we had," said librarian Hazel Peterson.
Ms. Rojas was devoted to her students, tutoring them after school and leading them in academic competitions.
"If they had problems, they could talk to her," Ms. Peterson said.
Students sent numerous cards after learning of her illness. They and staff members raised about $2,000, which will be donated to the family for medical expenses or used for a scholarship fund in her honor.
Ms. Peterson said counselors were at the school this week to help students cope with Ms. Rojas' death.
Her case isn't unprecedented, but it is extremely rare.
The number of brain-dead mothers kept alive so births could be attempted is unknown because generally only those cases that ended in successful deliveries have been documented in studies, experts said. About a dozen since 1979 have been reported.
"It's a topic fortunately many obstetricians never have to deal with in an entire lifetime of practice," said Dr. Jeanne Sheffield, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. She wasn't involved in Ms. Rojas' case.
When she was a medical resident in another state, Dr. Sheffield was involved in the care of a pregnant woman kept alive to deliver following a traffic accident.
The case was stressful, devastating and emotionally exhausting for her as a physician, she said.
"You're dealing with a family that is emotionally devastated," she said.
Keeping the fetus alive and healthy is a Herculean effort that involves multiple experts in everything from ethics to endocrinology, said Dr. Winston A. Campbell, director of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center.
Dr. Campbell was among a team of physicians who treated a pregnant woman in such circumstances. He published a paper in 2000 on that case and others.
He said each of the babies reached the point of viability -- 24 weeks -- but each was delivered short of the usual full term of 38 to 40 weeks. Myriad potential complications involving the mother generally force early delivery.
"The longer they are on support of this type, the more chances they'll develop complications," he said.
A few recent cases garnered national attention.
In 2005, a 26-year-old pregnant Virginia woman made national headlines. The woman, who suffered a stroke when an aggressive cancer reached her brain, was kept on a ventilator nearly three months, according to media reports.
Her daughter was delivered prematurely. The baby, who weighed less than 2 pounds, was active at birth but died five weeks later after surgery for a ruptured intestine.
Also that year, a boy was born prematurely to a woman kept on life support in Hawaii. He is thriving, according to a family Web site.