Real Names: Francisco Santos, Doris Santos, Ronnie Santos, Frank Santos, Ralph Santos, and Frank Santos, Jr.
Case: Unknown Disease
Date: December 31, 1960 to 1991
Details: Thirty-four-year-old Francisco Santos was a resident of Guam where he lived with his wife, Donatila, their seven children, and extended family. Around 1:30am on December 31, 1960, he began snoring. Donatila found this unusual as he never did so before. Her attempts to wake him failed, even when she lifted him up and began crying. He took one last breath before dying. His death was first thought to be from a stroke but was later discovered to be the result of heart failure.
By 1970, Donatila had remarried and moved to northern California with her seven children. Then, in April 1981, twenty-seven-year-old Doris was found unconscious in her bedroom, halfway off the bed. Just like Francisco, attempts to wake her failed and doctors attributed her death to heart failure. At the time, doctors did not believe that it was related to Francisco's.
Within two years, twenty-three-year-old Ronnie began complaining of chest pains. He was found to have a virus of the heart muscle. It was controllable with medication and he could lead a normal, active life under a doctor's supervision. By the following September, he and his long-time girlfriend, Dana, had married. During one of his weekly softball games, he collapsed and fell unconscious after half of an inning of play. He was announced dead upon arrival at the hospital, having died from cardiomyopathy, likely the result of a viral infection.
A year after Ronnie's death, thirty-three-year-old Frank collapsed while watching television at his home. His wife, Annette, and Donatila were out running errands when they were informed. By the time they arrived at his home, they found paramedics working on him. Tragically, he passed away as well. Again, cardiomyopathy was blamed for his death.
In August 1987, thirty-year-old Ralph died of a viral infection of the heart in his sleep. He left behind a wife and two young sons. Finally, in November 1991, Frank Jr. collapsed during a high school dance. The mysterious disease had now gone to the next generation. Tragically, Annette had now lost her husband and son.
Physicians discovered that heart disorders have plagued the Santos family for a number of generations prior to Francisco's death but are not sure why. They are certain that there is some sort of genetic disease is to blame.
The surviving Santos siblings, Nina, Maria, and Steve, now fear that they will become the next victims of the unknown heart disease that is plaguing their family.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on April 1, 1992 episode.
Results: Solved. Several viewers called the telecenter, believing that the Santos family was suffering from Brugada Syndrome. It is a genetic disorder most commonly seen in Thailand and Laos that causes an increased risk in sudden cardiac death, even without any known underlying cardiac diseases being present. Tests confirmed that they do have this genetic disorder. Frank's other son, Roque, was put on a pacemaker and the remaining relatives take daily heart medication. Fortunately, there has been no other deaths in the immediate family. Donatilla passed away in 2014.
- Doctors Search for Clues to Similar Deaths of Six Family Members
- Clues Sought to Mystery Heart Ailment Fatal to 6 in Family
- Outwardly Healthy Family Searches for Answers to Mysterious Deaths
- Family's grim story: Members dead at 15, 24, 27, 30, 33
- Santos Family Update on SitcomsOnline
- Francisco, Doris, Ronnie, Frank, Ralph, and Frank Jr. on Find a Grave
- Donatilla Santos' Obituary