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08:06 AM

Ventura County Star: No Place Like Home

This Six-Month-Old Baby has Yet to Leave the NICU

The Ventura County Star recently interviewed David Bliss, MD, a pediatric general surgeon, about one of his patients, Janessa Torres, who has spent the first six months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cedars-Sinai.

The baby girl was born at 34 weeks with a condition called gastroschisis, a condition in which a baby’s intestines sprout outside of the body while in utero through a hole near the bellybutton. The condition happens for unknown reasons and affects 1 in every 4,000 births.

Janessa was also born with dextrocardia, meaning her heart points to the right side of her chest instead of the left. She has undergone countless surgeries – too many for her mother Marlen to count – and is not yet ready to visit her home for the first time in Ventura, Calif.

At least once a week, Marlen makes the two-hour journey from Ventura to Cedars-Sinai to visit her daughter and receive updates on her care. She stays overnight in a nearby Ronald McDonald House, then leaves before the sun rises so she can make it to work on time. 

“She made a decision out of necessity," said Bliss, referring to Torres' weekday marathons. “It speaks to the kind of person she is. Most people would crumble, just fall apart. She is made of tougher stuff than I am.”

Janessa has faced so many health challenges during her short life that the NICU nurses nicknamed her “Wonder Woman.” When first born, Janessa weighed only 5 pounds, but today, she tips the scales at 15 pounds, making her the largest resident in the NICU. If she continues gaining weight and is able to eat without tubes, Bliss says her chances of a full recovery are good.

“There is sort of a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, which is the potential for an absolutely normal child,” said Bliss.

Click here to watch the video, view the photos and read the complete story from the Ventura County Star.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Social Worker Randie Cloutier Chaine