Family speaks on student’s passing

By Christopher Dacanay


The family of Cassandra “Cassie” Martinez, who passed away during spring break on March 10, shared the circumstances around her passing, as well as the viewing and funeral details.   

Ricardo and Kristen Martinez, Cassie Martinez’s parents, said the exact cause of death has not been released by Trinity Medical Center, where Cassie Martinez passed away. 

Kristen Martinez said that Cassie Martinez’s passing was probably the result of one or more different conditions. She said her body may have been worn out from a lifetime of medical challenges, which included multiple chemotherapy treatments and a major brain surgery that she had as an infant.  

Cassie Martinez was diagnosed with an extremely rare brain tumor when she was almost six months old. Brain surgery to partially remove the tumor left her with a brain injury to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, as well as some damage to the optic tracts and her frontal lobe. 

As a result, she had panhypopituitarism — the need for multiple hormone replacements — adrenal insufficiency and diabetes insipidus. She had to take multiple daily hormone medications, either orally or via injection. 

Kristen Martinez said that on the evening of March at 9:30 p.m. she spoke with Cassie Martinez on the phone. Cassie Martinez said she was experiencing stomach issues, so Kristen Martinez advised her to “stress dose” or triple dose her steroids.  

Due to the surgically-induced brain injury, which caused adrenal insufficiency, Cassie Martinez had to take steroids three times a day; but when sick with digestive issues, a fever or other illness, undergoing surgery or other physically stressful events, she needed to triple-dose her steroids at her normal dosing times, Kristen Martinez said. 

On the morning of March 10, the app Medisafe reported that Cassie Martinez had taken her medicines; however, by the early afternoon, the required medicines were not checked off. Kristen Martinez called Cassie Martinez, but her phone was not charged and she did not answer.  

Kristen Martinez then called Tom Costello, resident director of Sts. Louis and Elizabeth Hall, who went to check on her in the early afternoon. When Costello reached her, Kristen Martinez said, her eyes were open, but she was very tired.  

Kristen Martinez remained on the phone with Costello while he gave Cassie Martinez the required steroids. Costello said that Cassie Martinez was tired so she lied right back down. 

At approximately 5:30 p.m., Cassie Martinez’s brother Roberto “Robbie” Martinez went to her dorm to check on her, but she was unresponsive. An ambulance was called and CPR was administered, but she did not respond. 

She was then taken to the Trinity Medical Center emergency room. Among several others present there with Cassie Martinez were Costello, Serra Alongi, the Rev. Shawn Roberson, TOR, Robbie Martinez, Michael Hummel, Christian Lesnefsky and her boyfriend, Matthew Valerio. 

Roberson performed the Anointing of the Sick on her and provided counsel to the students present.  

In the meantime, Kristen and Ricardo Martinez had already boarded a plane to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, around 5:50 p.m, Eastern Standard Time. They had previously planned to meet Cassie and Robbie Martinez for a spring break road trip.  

“Just after 6:00 p.m., the emergency room doctor talked to us while we were on the plane and let us know that Cassie had died, “Kristen Martinez said. “We arrived from Texas and were driven to the hospital in the evening by Father Dominic (Foster, TOR,) and Serra (Alongi). We met Robbie and Matthew at Cassie’s bedside. Matthew gave us her scapular and religious medals and jewelry, which he had removed and Father Shawn had blessed.”  

Robbie said the entire situation was beyond difficult, but he expressed deep gratitude for all of the support his family received during and after his sister’s passing.  

The family is grateful for the support of various individuals. In addition to those individuals mentioned previously, Dan Dentino, vice president of student life, spent time with the Martinez family. Kristen Martinez said he offered his assistance and was a tremendous help throughout the weekend.  

Kristen Martinez said Valerio also greatly assisted in the large task of packing up Cassie Martinez’s room and offered his assistance throughout the next few days.  

Furthermore, Father Dominic Foster spent much time with the family and was very comforting, she said. He, Costello and Serra offered rides over a period of several days. The Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR and university president, also subsequently visited and prayed with the Martinez family. 

The family is also thankful for Cassie Martinez’s household Daughters of Divine Mercy, whom Kristen and Ricardo Martinez called a “Godsend” because of their prayers. They also gave thanks for Franciscan’s lacrosse team, which offered its winning game for Cassie Martinez. 

The university at-large hosted a Rosary and Mass for Cassie Martinez the day after her passing, and a holy hour and reception were offered on March 23 at 8 p.m. 

“We have experienced the encouragement of Sister Joan Paule, TOR, as well and the love of many friends who have begun walking this leg of the journey with us,” Kristen and Ricardo Martinez said. “We cannot possibly thank you all enough. We could not do this without you, and we truly feel your prayers.  

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We love you all, Franciscan family!” 

Cassie Martinez’s viewing will be on March 29 from 6-8 p.m. at Lucas Funeral Home, 1601 S. Main St., Keller, Texas. At 7 p.m. the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet will be offered, and a video of her life events will be shown. 

A requiem funeral Mass will be offered on March 30 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, located at 201 Willis Lane, Keller, Texas. 

Following the funeral Mass will be a graveside service at Bourland Cemetery, 900 Bourland Road, Keller, Texas. 

A reception will follow in the parish hall of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.