Gifts Pour in for Muslim American Who Delivered Septuplets
Attending doctors Mutahar Fauzia, Craig Winkel and Siva Subramanian speak to the media about the birth of septuplets at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC, 13 July 2001. The five boys and two girls were born at 11:25pm by cesarean section 12 July 2001. Their birth marks the third set of septuplets in the world.
WASHINGTON, July 16 (AFP) - Gifts and donations poured in over the weekend to Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, where newly-born US septuplets were fighting for survival in an intensive care unit.
But initial euphoria generated by the joyous event was giving way to new skepticism about modern fertility treatments and their effects on children.
Doctors refrained from direct contacts with the media Saturday, but a recorded message at the hospital's public relations office said that two days after their birth, five of the babies remained on lung ventilators.
The remaining two babies were breathing with the help of a device called "control positive airwave pressure system."
The Muslim mother, who in accordance with her wishes has not been identified, was in good condition, the statement said.
As many as 25 medical personnel assisted the babies' delivery by Caesarean section late Thursday.
The babies, however, each weighed around one kilogram (2.2 pounds) and were born 11 weeks premature, after only 28 weeks in their mother's womb.
"While the mom is doing great, I'm not sure we're out of the woods yet as far as the babies" are concerned, Craig Winkel, the hospital's chief of obstetrics and gynecology, said Friday.
Since the family's hospital bill could top one million dollars, donations and gift have started pouring in.
As of late Saturday, the newly-established septuplets fund had received 4,500 dollars, as well as toys, baby clothes and diapers, and special car seats.
But the event has also touched off some soul-searching in the US medical community about fertility drugs and their effects on children as well as their parents.
The woman who gave birth to the septuplets had been taken such drugs, enabling her to produce extra eggs, according to doctors.
When her obstetrician discovered she was carrying seven embryos, she was offered a reduction -- a common procedure for fertility patients, aimed at reducing the number of fetuses to benefit of the remaining ones.
But the woman, who is a Muslim, declined, citing her religious convictions, the doctors said.
Drugs including clomiphene citrate or gonadotropins taken by a would-be mother, or 'in vitro' fertilization methods, often results in multiple embryos.
However "couples who have invested a great deal of time, money, and energy in pursuing pregnancy are often unprepared to make this decision" on reducing the number of fetuses which will be carried to term, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine said in a recent statement.
The multiple birth at Georgetown University Hospital has also revived interest in the fate of the first complete surviving set of septuplets. These were born to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey on November 19, 1997, amid an outpouring of public joy.
The sober reality three-and-a-half years later is that the McCaugheys, who also underwent fertility treatment, have to cope with serious health problems among their children.
"Alexis was diagnosed with hypotonic quadriplegia, which causes muscular weakness in all four limbs," wrote Bobbi in her weekly Internet journal. "Nathan has spastic diplegia, a condition that causes spasms in the legs."
She added that Alexis and Natalie had feeding problems known as severe reflux when they were younger, "which often required tube feedings from a pump that would drip a high-calorie liquid directly into their stomachs."