Septuplets bring joy and fear, says doctor

WASHINGTON, The Washington Post

The Georgetown University Hospital septuplets continued to improve Saturday, and a second of the tiny infants was taken off its ventilator.

All seven were put under photo therapy lights to treat jaundice, a common condition in newborns.

The infants, ranging from 2 pounds to 2 pounds, 7 ounces, were delivered in a dramatic cesarean section Thursday night to a Northern Virginia woman. The septuplets were still in critical condition and under constant monitoring, but their mother was able to get up to walk a bit Saturday, said her obstetrician.

The doctor, Mutahar Fauzia, said that the parents, who visited the babies together Saturday, are nervous about how the infants will fare but happy about their arrival.

“Right now it’s joy and fear,” Fauzia said. “When you are realistic and understand the situation, you are just praying. I was telling her, ‘Don’t worry. God will help you. We are doing our best.”‘

Doctors and a hospital spokeswoman said the parents want to remain anonymous.

“Mom doesn’t want the world to know too much about the family, and they are afraid. But now the world has to know, and I tell them the world is praying for them,” Fauzia said.

The mother, a Saudi Arabian national who lives in Northern Virginia, was described by Fauzia as also concerned about media coverage in her homeland and how it might affect her mother there.

The infants, only the third set of septuplets to survive birth, were born about 11 weeks shy of a full-term pregnancy. The obstetrician also said that the mother, who had taken fertility drugs, was recovering. “Mom walked to the bathroom,” she said. The mother planned to spend Saturday night at the hospital, said Fauzia, who was to sleep in a playroom across the hall from the mother’s room. “The key is walking. You need a person who will motivate her to do that,” she said.

The births earned a spot in medical history, given that the only other surviving septuplets are the McCaugheys, born in Iowa in 1997, and those born to a Saudi Arabian family in 1998. Seven members of a set of octuplets also were born in Houston in 1998.

The nation’s newest set of septuplets is expected to remain hospitalized for several weeks. A team of specialists at Georgetown University Hospital is assigned to each infant, who are about 13 to 14 inches long and are being monitored in the neonatal intensive care unit. One of the two babies no longer on ventilators is the smallest of the septuplets, a girl.

The delivery was rich in medical drama: More than 50 doctors and nurses were present for the procedure, which took place between 1105 and 1108 p.m. Thursday. The father was present for the procedure, staying with his wife even when the babies were handed over to special teams that took care of them. The mother did not see her babies until Friday afternoon.

Aware of the potential complications the infants faced, the medical team had rehearsed its roles for several weeks in advance. Several had canceled vacations or juggled schedules.

Despite the success in the delivery room, doctors stressed that they were being cautious, saying that the septuplets are expected to remain in critical condition for several days.

Some women with multiple conceptions from fertility treatments choose to halt development of one or more of the fetuses to give the others a better chance of survival.

Fauzia said that the parents ruled out that option, saying that their Muslim faith dictated that they go forward with the birth of all seven. The babies were born after 28 1/2 weeks; a full-term pregnancy is usually about 40 weeks.

Georgetown spokeswoman Paula Faria said Saturday that the scene from Friday had changed dramatically. Then, special medical teams took care of each infant immediately after the delivery. Saturday, the infants’ improved conditions allowed the hospital to keep one nurse assigned exclusively to each septuplet at all times.