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Quadruple Blessing : Husband of Lompoc Woman, 50, Calls Their 4 Babies a 'Miracle'

February 21, 1997|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA BARBARA — A 50-year-old Lompoc grandmother who received fertility treatments at a Northridge reproductive center delivered healthy quadruplets Thursday, apparently the oldest woman to have four children at once, hospital administrators said.

"We wanted a child to make our marriage complete," said beaming dad Robert Fillippini, a 49-year-old welder. "To be blessed with four is just a miracle."

His wife, Cheryl Fillippini, a former neonatal ward nurse and recent law school graduate, gave birth to the babies--three girls and a boy--between 8:30 and 8:33 a.m. with the aid of 20 physicians and nurses, said Janet O'Neill, a spokeswoman for Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Robert, Rebekah, Amanda and Sydney were underweight and more than two months premature when they were delivered by caesarean section, O'Neill said.

They will remain in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, which has been affectionately renamed the "quad pod," until they gain weight and develop their lungs and sucking reflexes.

The Lompoc couple, who married three years ago and together have 10 children by previous marriages, confirmed they had sought fertility treatments twice in the last two years at the Greater Valley Center for Reproductive Medicine in Northridge. But at a news conference outside the hospital Thursday, Robert Fillippini declined to comment on what method of in vitro fertilization the couple used.

"I'm not going to talk about that," he said. "But I will say our doctor was great."

Typically, the reproductive facility removes a woman's eggs and fertilizes them in a dish before injecting them into the upper uterus, according to the center's director, Dr. Gary D. Hubert. "It takes three weeks from start to finish," he said.

Hubert said his facility has a 50% pregnancy rate per try and provides two free attempts if the first try is unsuccessful. But, he added, "it can get expensive."

Certainly, that will be the case with the quads' birth. Hospital officials estimate that the bill for bed space and obstetrics, not including the delivery of the infants, could top $400,000. And that's if there are no complications.

Then there's some people's concern about whether the parents, who will both be eligible to draw Social Security by the time the babies reach their teens, should have sought the procedure in the first place.

"I can understand how it would raise a lot of eyebrows," Hubert said of the ethical concerns. "But nowadays women are living longer, are in better health and in many cases are better able to handle the physical challenges of pregnancy."

Quadruplets occur naturally about once in every 729,000 births. Since the early 1970s, however, the rate of so-called "high-order" multiple births--more than twins--has tripled, largely due to the use of fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization.

Many of the babies require extensive medical treatment as a result of low birth weight and medical complications. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine said last year that it was considering limiting the number of embryos transferred during in vitro fertilization to four for women age 34 or younger.

At Cottage Hospital, well-wishers sent the Fillippinis cards, and a baby food company and diaper manufacturers offered free goods.

"They may help me stay younger," Robert Fillippini said of the quadruplets. "We've been through this before. We know the shortcuts."

Cheryl Fillippini has seven children--the oldest 33--from a previous marriage and six grandchildren, the oldest 12. She attended Santa Barbara College of Law while working as a nurse and raising her three youngest children. Robert Fillippini has three children from a previous marriage, the oldest 22, he said.

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