A 30-year-old high school English teacher who had been pregnant with septuplets gave birth to six live infants here this morning with the help of a 40-member team of doctors, nurses, therapists and technicians.
The seventh child, a girl, was stillborn. Doctors immediately put the remaining six, born 12 weeks prematurely, on respirators and intravenous feeding.
The "Guinness Book of World Records" lists no cases of septuplets all surviving and no cases of American sextuplets -- six babies from a single birth -- surviving. Six sets of sextuplets are believed to be living around the world.
The surviving four boys and two girls born today to Patti Frustaci and her husband, Sam, a 32-year-old industrial steam equipment salesman, ranged in weight from 1 pound, 1 ounce to 1 pound, 13 ounces at birth and were in critical but stable condition.
Their mother, who had been taking the fertility drug Pergonal, normally weighs 115 pounds but gained 70 pounds during pregnancy.
Dr. Ragnar Amlie, the neonatalogist who supervised the babies' initial care after the three-minute Cesarean delivery, said, "We will fight for each baby, and only time will tell." He said newborns under two pounds usually have a 30 to 40 percent chance of survival. The Frustaci infants will remain at the hospital for several months even if all goes well, he added.
The babies' father, joking at a noon news conference less than four hours after the births, said he had to drive his car at up to 60 miles per hour along a highway emergency lane when he found the freeway to the hospital unexpectedly jammed this morning. "I thought I would never make it and I'd be disowned by my wife," he said.
Asked if the births created a financial problem, Frustaci said, "You never have money problems when you don't have any money." Until Patti Frustaci left her job, the couple had a joint income of about $40,000. They live with their 14-month-old son, Joseph, in a four-bedroom house, which they have said they will have to expand.
According to Guinness, the largest recorded multiple birth was nine babies in Sydney, Australia, in 1971. None survived more than six days. No more than six babies from any single birth have survived in recorded human history.
Helen Kirk, a multiple-birth expert based in Galveston, Tex., lists six surviving sets of sextuplets. They were born in South Africa in 1974, in Italy in 1980, in Brazil, England and Israel in 1983, and in England early this month. One child from a set of sextuplets born in Colorado in 1973 died within a week and another at age 10, Kirk said.
Sam Frustaci said he and his wife have been married four years and were aware of the possibility of multiple births when she began taking Pergonal to overcome blocked Fallopian tubes and inactive ovaries. Their elder child was conceived with the aid of the drug, and "we thought it might be fun to have twins," he said.
Dr. Martin Feldman, the obstetrician who delivered the babies, said he immediately detected three fetuses when he first saw Patti Frustaci in January and ordered further sonograms that detected all seven. She was hospitalized March 25, confined to bed and given the drug isoxuprine hydrochloride to try to prevent early labor.
Two weeks ago her blood pressure began to climb and she experienced trouble eating because of shortness of breath. Feldman said he delayed the operation as long as possible to give the fetuses time to develop, but concluded yesterday that the danger to the babies from their mother's hypertension would be greater if he waited longer.
Doctors said the stillborn seventh child, a 15 1/2-ounce girl, had probably died a few days ago because of a poorly formed placenta and umbilical cord, the fetus' nutrient link to the mother, caused by the hypertension.
Both parents spent a few minutes holding their dead child, Sam Frustaci said. "The Heavenly Father had alternative plans for her," he added.
The babies were identified by letter in order of appearance, girls A and D; boys B, C, E and F. Frustaci said names starting with those letters would probably be chosen.