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Texas woman makes history by delivering octuplets


6 girls, 2 boys alive but critical

December 20, 1998
Web posted at: 7:43 p.m. EST (0043 GMT)

HOUSTON (CNN) -- A Texas woman has delivered what is believed to be history's first-ever known set of surviving octuplets -- six girls and two boys.

Nkem Chukwu, 27, who was about 6 1/2 months into her pregnancy, gave birth to seven of the children Sunday morning via Caesarean section at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston.

One girl was born via vaginal delivery on December 8, after which doctors managed to stop Chukwu's labor and give the remaining babies nearly two more weeks in the womb.

The babies born Sunday ranged in size from 11 ounces to 1 pound, 11 ounces. The girl born in December weighed 1 pound. All eight are in critical condition breathing with the aid of ventilators at Texas Children's Hospital, which is adjacent to St. Luke's.

"They're doing as well as can be expected. They're hanging in there," said Dr. Patty Severick, a pediatrician at Texas Children's. "We're very hopeful all of the babies will survive."

Dr. Leonard Weissman, chief of newborn and premature services at St. Luke's, said babies born as prematurely as the octuplets have about an 85 percent chance of survival.

Previous octuplets didn't all survive

Dr. Brian Kirshon, the obstetrician who delivered the babies, said that if they live, the Chukwu children will be the first documented case of octuplets who were delivered alive and subsequently survived.

"It will be a remarkable feat if all of the babies survive," he said.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest multiple birth ever recorded was of nine babies in Sydney, Australia, in 1971. Only six survived.

Three other octuplet births have been recorded in the past 13 years, in Spain, Britain and Turkey. In one case, six children survived; in the other two, all eight children died.

Chukwu and her husband, Ike, are natives of Nigeria who now live in Houston and are American citizens. The hospital had honored their request for absolute privacy, but word began to spread Sunday after tipsters called two local news organizations.

Kirshon said the couple had been trying to conceive with the help of fertility drugs and that Chukwu had lost a set of triplets earlier this year. She was offered the option of selective reduction -- aborting some of the fetuses to increase the odds of survival for the rest -- but refused, he said.

Doctors weren't sure how many fetuses she was carrying until after the birth of the first girl, at which point a sonogram revealed seven more fetuses in the womb, Kirshon said.

Mother called 'model patient'

Chukwu had been hospitalized for the past 2 1/2 months, spending the last six weeks under strict bed rest. For the last two weeks, she had been laying in a decline position with her head down, in order to take pressure off of her cervix, Kirshon said.

"She was what you would call a model patient. She was willing to forego food if that would make a little bit of extra room for the babies to grow," he said. "She kept a positive attitude and was willing to do whatever it took to prolong the pregnancy. So I think that was a unique part of this patient's (successful) outcome."

Barring unforeseen complications, Chukwu is expected to be out of the hospital by the end of the week. The children will probably spend the next two months in the hospital, Severick said.

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