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Septuplet Baby Comes Off Ventilator

November 25, 1997

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Another McCaughey septuplet was taken off a ventilator today, joining her brother Kenneth in breathing on her own.

Natalie Sue, at 2 pounds, 10 ounces the second-smallest septuplet at birth, was taken off a respirator and her condition upgraded to fair around midday, said Lynne Yontz, spokeswoman for Blank Children’s Hospital.

Kenneth Robert, at 3 pounds 4 ounces the heaviest and also the first to be born, has been breathing on his own since Friday, two days after the seven babies were born to Bobbi McCaughey and her husband, Kenny.

The youngest, Joel Steven, was strong enough to breathe on his own for a few hours Sunday but soon grew tired and was placed back on the ventilator that night. His condition, once upgraded to fair, returned to serious. The other four babies _ two boys and two girls _ remained in serious condition today.

The babies are doing well for their age and small size, Dr. Robert Shaw had said Monday. The ones on ventilators can’t cry out loud, but they make their feelings known by their facial expressions and movements, he said.

``If they’re poked for an occasional blood sample, or stimulated, or have a wet diaper, they try to let us know that,″ Shaw said.

``But most of the time, the babies have just been delightfully comfortable, sleeping in their own preferred positions,″ said Shaw, who is the neonatologist overseeing the septuplets’ care.

Doctor’s weren’t much worried that Joel had to be returned to a ventilator, saying he was getting needed rest.

``It’s not unusual for a baby this size and this age to give every indication ... they’re ready for a try, and then show us after a while that they begin to tire,″ Shaw said.

The babies have lost 5 percent to 10 percent of their body weight since their Caesarean birth to Mrs. McCaughey, 29, and her 27-year-old husband. Shaw called that a good sign.

``That would indicate to us that the kidneys are functioning well, that they’re getting their share of circulation necessary to perform their job,″ Shaw said.

Once the babies start breathing on their own, the next milestone will be when they begin feeding by mouth _ except for Kenneth, of course, who’s ahead of the rest. Natalie had not yet begun feeding by mouth as of midday, the hospital said.

``We try not to get parents overjoyed at some of the success and not too discouraged about some of the inevitable small setbacks,″ Shaw said. ``The remarkable thing to us is not so much how the babies are doing, but the fact that this mother was able to grow these babies so well.″

Video of baby Kenneth shown on NBC’s ``Today″ show today showed the infant with wires running from monitors attached to his chest and elsewhere.

Wearing just a diaper, he kicked his legs in his small hospital bed, while a small shield blocked his eyes from a bright light overhead.

In an interview scheduled to be broadcast tonight on NBC’s ``Dateline,″ Mrs. McCaughey said she overcame her fears with the support of family and friends.

``Any child is a gift from God, no matter whether it’s one at a time or seven at a time,″ she said. ``It didn’t take very long, just a few weeks, for the shock to wear off and get used to the idea that we’re going to have a very big family.″

She recounted her thoughts as she was taken to the operating room last Wednesday.

``I had no idea what it was going to be like,″ Mrs. McCaughey said. ``It was just, `Let’s get this over with; I want to see my babies and be done with it.‴

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