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Septuplets Gave Couple Problems

November 20, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The seven babies born to Patti and Sam Frustaci in 1985 took the couple on an odyssey from hope to heartbreak: Only three of infants survived.

The septuplets _ four boys and three girls _ were born by Caesarean section 12 weeks premature in Orange, Calif. One was stillborn. The other six ranged in weight from 1 pound, 1 ounce to 1 pound, 13 ounces.

Over the next 19 days, three of the infants died, all from hyaline membrane disease, a condition in which the lungs collapse after each breath.

The surviving infants, Richard, Patricia and Stephen, arrived in critical but stable condition.

Like Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, whose septuplets were born in Iowa Wednesday, the Frustacis also used the drug Pergonal to increase their fertility prospects.

What began as the promise hope for a large family quickly became an ordeal. Extraordinary expenses of more than $1 million were only partially offset by offers of help, free food, goods and services and an exclusive interview contract with People magazine.

As mortality of the infants accelerated, many of the offers and endorsements faded away or never materialized.

Attempts to contact the Frustacis on Wednesday were unsuccessful. R. Browne Greene, their former attorney, no longer knew the couple’s whereabouts and their telephone number was unlisted. A call to a man believed to be the brother of Sam Frustaci in Salt Lake City was not immediately returned.

Life became a series of increasingly difficult tests for the teacher and her husband, an industrial tool salesman. They sought fertility assistance because of their deep desire for family grounded in their Mormon beliefs. Before they conceived the septuplets, they already had one son, a healthy toddler named Joseph.

The Frustacis faced a series of extreme medical difficulties with the surviving septuplets. The children suffered breathing and neurological difficulties and additional complications.

Mrs. Frustaci said in a 1995 interview in People magazine that her husband initially joked ``about having a litter and buying Gravy Train″ when he learned she was pregnant with septuplets.

A few months after the births, humor became a moot point. Attorney Greene said their lives were under siege. Ultimately, the couple filed a lawsuit against the clinic and the physician that treated Mrs. Frustaci and they won a $2.7 million settlement on behalf of the surviving children.

In 1991, six years after the birth of the septuplets, Mrs. Frustaci gave birth to healthy twins, also aided by Pergonal.

``She got the healthy babies she wanted,″ Greene said in an interview after the 1991 births. ``That’s what this was all about.″

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