Four of the five surviving Frustaci septuplets showed considerable improvement Saturday, and while the condition of the fifth baby was unchanged, doctors were heartened that his condition had not worsened.
"The prognosis for all these children is that their condition is critically stable, and I do not expect any of these babies to expire in the next 24 to 48 hours," Dr. Carrie Worcester said at a news conference Saturday at Childrens Hospital in Orange.
"One never knows, but I don't expect a turn for the worse," said Worcester, a neonatologist and director of the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. "Every day that goes by, I'll probably smile a little more."
Remain on Respirators
Worcester said Babies A, C and E have made significant improvement in their blood pressure and breathing rates, but they remain on respirators to help their underdeveloped lungs to breathe.
Baby D, a 1-pound, 12-ounce girl who had been of great concern to the team of neonatologists attending the surviving septuplets, was "100% improved" Saturday, Worcester said.
Baby B, a 1-pound, 12-ounce boy, remains the most critically ill. But "Baby B also has not worsened," said Worcester, adding that that was a very good sign.
Tests on the surviving infants born to a Riverside high school teacher showed that medication had successfully closed the duct from the aorta to the pulmonary artery in each baby, eliminating the problem of blood flooding into their lungs--which already are stricken with severe hyaline membrane disease.
The disease, common among premature infants, makes the lungs tend to collapse after each breath because they lack a lubricating substance to keep the air sacs open. It reaches its peak at 72 hours after birth, but some infants can require respirator support for weeks or months after birth, Worcester said.
The septuplets were born by Caesarean section to Patti Frustaci on Tuesday morning at nearby St. Joseph Hospital. The seventh child, a 15 1/2-ounce girl, was stillborn. Her death was attributed to the mother's increasingly high blood pressure before birth. A sixth infant, a boy designated Baby F and nicknamed Peanut because he was much smaller than the others, died early Friday of cardio-respiratory failure after 64 hours of life.
11 Weeks Premature
The births occurred in Frustaci's 29th week of pregnancy--about 11 weeks premature.
Patti Frustaci, 30, was reported in much improved condition herself Saturday, but she will remain in St. Joseph Hospital's intensive care unit at least until today, said Tes Pane, director of obstetrical and gynecological nursing at the hospital.
She will not be able to see her surviving infants until she is released from intensive care, Pane said.
Patti Frustaci sat up and walked Friday evening for the first time, but was still in considerable pain and discomfort from the birth, Pane said. Dr. Martin Feldman, her obstetrician, has indicated that the soonest she could be released from the hospital would be Tuesday.
Pane said Frustaci has selected possible names for the children, but will not name them until she has visited them in the neonatal intensive care unit. "I want to see them first," Pane quoted her as saying.
Funeral Arrangements Pending
Funeral arrangements for Babies F and G will not be made until their mother is released from the hospital, Pane said.
"Medically, she's in about the same condition, but she is feeling much better," Pane said at the news conference Saturday. "She said to tell you she walked around her room four times."
Pane said Frustaci had been depressed by the death of Baby F on Friday, but that the time she spent with the infant after his death was "very, very beneficial for her."
"Mothers who give birth and lose a child have to be able to express that love for the baby they've been carrying inside them," Pane said. "If you don't get to do that, there's a void in your life."
Pane said Frustaci is recuperating gradually from pregnancy-induced hypertension, a condition that prompted her obstetrician to order the Caesarian delivery on Tuesday. Pane said the mother's blood pressure had stabilized and her vital signs were returning to normal, indicating that the condition "is resolving itself."
Frustaci also is suffering from a painful gastrointestinal condition called ileus, which is a predictable complication of abdominal surgery, Pane said. Discomfort lingers until all abdominal organs moved or jostled during surgery have settled into place and resume normal functioning. Until then, Pane said Frustaci will be fed intravenously.
It is expected to be beneficial for both mother and infants for her to visit the surviving septuplets, and Pane said Frustaci is anxious to do so. Initially, doctors had hoped she would be able to leave the intensive care ward by Friday. However, her slower-than-expected recovery, combined with extreme exhaustion and her grief at losing Baby F, has delayed that visit at least until sometime today or Monday.
Sees Them on Videotape
"She did not feel well enough to go over (to Childrens Hospital) to see the babies, even though she wants very deeply to see them," Pane said.
In the meantime, a videotape recorder has been rounded up so Frustaci can see unedited films of her new babies provided by CBS and NBC news crews.
For the first time since the babies' birth, Samuel Frustaci, the 32-year-old father of the septuplets, did not attend Saturday's news conference. Pane said he had been spending time with their 14-month-old son, Joseph, who--like the septuplets--was conceived with the aid of the fertility drug Pergonal.