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Smallest of Octuplets Dies

December 27, 1998

HOUSTON (AP) _ A week after she was born weighing just 10.3 ounces, the smallest of the octuplets born this month to a Texas couple died Sunday from heart and lung failure.

Chijindu Chidera, nicknamed Odera, was pronounced dead shortly before 3:30 a.m. at Texas Children’s Hospital after medication and chest compressions failed to save her.

``We are very saddened by the passing of our beloved baby Odera,″ mother Nkem Chukwu and father Iyke Louis Udobi said in a statement. ``She is now safe with God in heaven and we remain most grateful to him for having blessed our lives with hers.″

The first baby was born Dec. 8, followed by the seven others 12 days later. They had been the world’s only living octuplets. Odera was the fifth child.

Her condition deteriorated significantly Saturday when doctors moved her from a conventional ventilator to an oscillator to improve her blood oxygenation. Her oxygen levels remained poor and her heart began to fail.

Ms. Chukwu and her husband and mother visited all eight babies for the first time Saturday night, at about the same time Odera’s condition worsened, hospital officials said.

The other seven babies were in critical condition. The youngest, Gorom, was recovering from abdominal surgery Saturday to repair an intestinal perforation. Two _ Ebuka and Ikem _ remained on ventilators, but four others _ Chidi, Echerem, Chima and Jioke _ were breathing on their own.

The mother was in stable condition Sunday morning, according to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital.

Few babies as small as Odera _ or her siblings _ survive more than a few hours after birth.

Dr. Patti Savrick, the babies’ pediatrician, had said Saturday that the girl was ``literally on minute-to-minute care.″

A doctor not directly involved in Odera’s care said the baby would likely have had significant problems had she lived.

``I think in the end, from the baby’s perspective, this may have been the best outcome for her,″ said Dr. Timothy Cooper, a neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics and ethics at Baylor College of Medicine.

Even before Odera’s death, the births of the octuplets just a year after septuplets were born in Iowa had renewed the medical community’s debate over the use of fertility drugs.

As more and more couples turn to fertility assistance, many say the increased probability of having at least one child is worth risking the odds of having a multiple birth.

But experts say the multiple births bring unnecessary risks, and the results are usually the birth of sickly, premature babies. Many experts and physicians are examining how much control doctors can exert over large multiple births, a side effect of the drugs.

On Sunday, the parents thanked the doctors and hospitals for trying to help Odera against ``overwhelming″ obstacles.

``We also want to thank people all over the world for their prayers for our family in this special time in which we are so blessed by our eight babies, but so sad for the loss of little Odera,″ they said.

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