Real Names: Francisco Santos, Doris Santos, Ronnie Santos, Frank Santos Sr., 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, seven children, and extended family. Around 1:30 in the morning on December 31, 1960, he began snoring. His wife, Donatila, found this unusual as he never snored before. Her attempts to wake him failed, even when she lifted him up and began crying. Francisco took one last breath before dying. Francisco's 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 Santos, her youngest daughter, was found unconscious in her bedroom, halfway off the bed. Just like her father, attempts to wake Doris failed and doctors attributed her death to heart failure. At the time, doctors did not believe that her death was related to her father's death.
Within two years, twenty-three-year-old Ronnie Santos, the youngest in the family, began complaining of chest pains. He was found to have a virus of the heart muscle. The virus was controllable with medication and Ronnie 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, Ronnie collapsed and fell unconscious after half of an inning of play. He was announced dead on 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 Santos, the eldest son of the family, collapsed while watching television in his home. His wife Annette and mother were out running errands when they learned that he had collapsed. By the time they arrived at the home, they found paramedics working on him. Tragically, he passed away as well. Again, cardiomyopathy was blamed for the death.
In August 1987, thirty-year-old Ralph Santos 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 Santos 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 her son.
Physicians discovered that heart disorders have plagued Francisco's family for a number of generations prior to his 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 segment aired on April 1, 1992 episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
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 the family does have this genetic disorder. Roque Santos, son of Frank Santos and brother of Frank Santos Jr., was put on a pacemaker and the remaining family members take daily heart medication. Fortunately, there has been no other deaths in the immediate family.