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After Tragedies, Septuplets Bring Joy

July 16, 2001

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ In his first interview since his wife delivered seven babies, the father says the couple is joyful about the births because they want a large family but have lost two other children in the last five years.

``God took two of them, and he gave us seven,″ Fahad Qahtani said in an interview published Monday in The Washington Post. ``We thank Him for it all the time.″

The septuplets were born Thursday at Georgetown University Hospital. By Sunday five of the newborns were breathing on their own and a sixth was expected to do so by Monday, the Post said.

Qahtani, a 29-year-old high school teacher from Saudi Arabia studying for a master’s degree at George Washington University, said he and his wife, who was not identified in the interview, came to this country three years ago hoping to save the life of their youngest child. The boy, then 6 months old, was on a waiting list for an organ transplant, but died.

Two years earlier their 3-year-old daughter died while waiting for a liver transplant. The Post said it was unclear if the health problems of those children might suggest similar problems for the newborns.

Qahtani said he and his 28-year-old wife wanted a large family and after she had trouble becoming pregnant again opted for fertility drugs.

``We hope and pray for them to get better,″ Qahtani said of the babies. ``We pray for them to be healthy.″

The couple also has a 9-year-old son.

The babies, born within minutes of each other by Caesarean section, weighed from 2 pounds to 2 pounds 7 ounces at birth. They were named for the members of the Saudi royal family.

``We want to show our love for this family,″ Qahtani said.

The couple has received strong support from Saudi officials, who say they typically cover medical expenses for Saudi nationals.

The hospital said Monday the mother remained hospitalized in good condition and the babies were in the neonatal intensive care unit.

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