Octuplets' mother may leave ICU; babies still critical
December 22, 1998
HOUSTON (CNN) -- The world's first surviving octuplets remained in critical condition Tuesday, after the eight babies spent a quiet night with their mother at Texas Children's Hospital, doctors said.
"All the babies are coming along nicely," pediatrician Dr. Patti Savrick told CNN on Tuesday morning. "We're very optimistic about all the babies, guardedly optimistic about the smallest babies."
Obstetrician Dr. Brian Kirshon said the mother, 27-year-old Nkem Chukwu, was improving Tuesday after surgery the day before to stop internal bleeding.
"We hope to take her out of intensive care later today," Kirshon said. "She is in very high spirits, and very optimistic."
The babies father, Iyke Paul Louis, was "very excited," Kirshon said.
The first of the eight babies was delivered naturally December 8, about 12 weeks premature. Doctors delivered the remaining seven Sunday by Caesarean section. The Chukwu family has yet to name the six girls and two boys, referred to as babies A-H in news releases.
Baby A, who was born first, is the only one of the octuplets breathing on her own. Baby E, another girl, is the smallest, weighing just over 10 ounces and measuring just under 10 inches long. All are being fed intravenously.
A questions of ethics
Since news of the births, hospital officials say donations for the family have been pouring in, including a lifetime supply of diapers, baby wipes and disposable pants. A local grocery chain, Randall's Food Market, donated a year's worth of groceries, and Mead Johnson Nutritionals gave a one-year supply of baby food.
The cost of raising the children is staggering. Dr. Leonard Weisman, Texas Children's chief neonatologist, estimated that it would cost $250,000 per baby to get them healthy enough to go home. Doctors said the infants could remain hospitalized for up to two months.
The high cost and potential for health problems -- Weisman said there was an 85 percent chance the babies would pull through -- focused debate on ethical issues surrounding multiple births and the use of fertility drugs.
"For certain families who are having trouble conceiving, I think they are a success," Weisman said. "The problem, the side effect is you wind up with all these multiple pregnancies, multiple births which result in a lot of increase in health problems."
Doctors say the parents refused their offer to abort some of the fetuses to give others a better chance of survival.
"Due to personal and religious beliefs, she elected not to do that and we've continued to support her decision and care for her babies that are born," Weisman said.
Correspondent Charles Zewe contributed to this report.
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