"Peanut," the tiniest of the six Frustaci septuplets who survived birth three days ago, died early this morning after one last fight for his life.
The infant boy, weighing about one pound, went into "respiratory distress" about 7 p.m. Thursday, but doctors were able to resuscitate him and he survived until 12:34 a.m. today, Dr. Carrie Worcester, director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Childrens Hospital of Orange County, said.
The tiniest baby, officially designated Baby F but nicknamed "Peanut" because of his size, died after a 64-hour struggle against a severe lung ailment, called hyaline membrane disease, and a heart problem.
'He's Made of Steel'
"When the doctors came (Thursday evening) and they thought it was all over, they said, 'There's something about this kid that he's really got to fight, that he's made of steel, that he refuses to die,' " the baby's father, Samuel Frustaci of Riverside, told reporters, his voice breaking and with tears in his eyes.
"Even though he was a tiny tot and he was here for only a short time, he was able to bring into the world a spirit about him and a love about him that I don't think anyone will be able to forget," Frustaci said at the morning press briefing.
"It is a sad day, but yet we have to be grateful that we still have five living."
His wife, Patti, 30, a teacher who had taken fertility drugs, delivered four boys and three girls by Caesarean section Tuesday morning. The last, a girl, was stillborn. The other six weighed at birth between 1 pound, 1 ounce and 1 pound, 13 ounces, but the smallest--the last to be born--dropped to one pound the next day.
Survivors on Respirators
The remaining five remained in critical but stable condition this morning, Worcester said. They all suffer from the lung disease and are on respirators.
The mother remains in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, adjacent to Childrens Hospital. She has been unable to visit the babies.
Baby F was brought to her after he died, and she held him for about an hour, a neonatal nurse said. She also had held the stillborn girl after the delivery.
"The hardest thing for Patti is the fact that she never got the chance to see (Peanut) while he was living," Sam Frustaci said tearfully. "That's the sad thing. . . . But we must concentrate on the other five . . . so she will be able to have some time with them."
Different From Beginning
Worcester said that from the beginning "Peanut" was different from the others. After the delivery, his umbilical cord was examined and it was "almost nonexistent. Had this baby been in utero one more day, it too would have been a stillborn. This baby was a fighter."
Tes Pane, director of obstetrical, gynecological and neonatal nursing at St. Joseph, said Patti Frustaci was medicated after spending a sleepless night.
Samuel Frustaci said there will be no autopsy. A single funeral service will be held for the stillborn girl and "Peanut."