The Frustacis resolved to have the babies, despite the medical risks. On May 21, 1985, Ms. Frustaci delivered four boys and three girls by cesarean section, about 12 weeks premature. Intense news coverage ensued, with many outlets calling the birth the largest in the United States, even though the seventh child, a girl named Christina, was stillborn.
The six surviving children all had heart problems, jaundice and hyaline membrane disease, a respiratory ailment. They were whisked into intensive care, where a team of neonatal doctors struggled to save them. One of the babies, a boy named David, died about three days after he was born.
Ms. Frustaci spent more than a week in the hospital recovering. She got to hold her surviving children in the neonatal intensive care unit before she left the hospital in early June. The children remained in intensive care.
“They’re beautiful,” she told reporters when she left. “I just hope they live.”
Two others, a daughter named Bonnie and a son named James, died before the three remaining children — Stephen, Richard and Patricia — went home.
All three of the surviving septuplets faced grave health concerns that initially required near-constant care.
In October 1985, the couple sued the Tyler Medical Clinic, the fertility center in Los Angeles that had overseen Ms. Frustaci’s treatment, and Dr. Jaroslav Marik, a fertility specialist there, alleging malpractice.
The suit contended that Ms. Frustaci had not been properly monitored early in her pregnancy and that the dose of Perganol she had received was too high. Dr. Marik contended that Ms. Frustaci had been negligent in failing to obtain the ultrasound treatments he had recommended.
The suit was settled in 1990 for a one-time payment of $450,000 and a monthly care payment for each of the three surviving septuplets, who needed extensive physical therapy and medical treatment. The Frustacis’ son Joseph said that the family still received the payments, and that the total amount paid so far had exceeded $1.5 million.
The difficulties of raising her family did not dissuade Ms. Frustaci from adding to it. In 1990, after undergoing further fertility treatments, she gave birth to healthy twins, Jordan and Jaclyn.
She was born Patricia Ann Jorgensen on Nov. 19, 1954, at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Her father, Richard, was in the Air Force and later ran an advertising agency; her mother, the former Bonnie Palfreyman, was a homemaker.
Ms. Frustaci received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University in the mid-1970s and went on to earn a master’s from California State University, Fullerton. She married Mr. Frustaci in 1981, and they soon tried to start a family.
The news media coverage of the septuplets opened the Frustacis to some criticism. “One baby is excellent,” Dr. Heather Irwin, a gynecologist and fertility specialist, told The Miami Herald in late May 1985. “Two is acceptable. Anything more than twins is bad medicine.”
The Frustacis felt compelled to defend themselves. “By no means did we set out to have twins or triplets or more than one child,” Mr. Frustaci told The Times, adding, “We were not out to set any records.”
In an interview, Joseph Frustaci said that the media attention, and the criticism, had made it even harder for his mother to deal with the loss of her children.
“Really, all she wanted was to be a mother, and I think the media got in the way, for a time, of her being able to be a loving and nurturing mother,” he said.
The ordeal took a toll on the family, and particularly on Ms. Frustaci, who had bipolar disorder. She and Mr. Frustaci, an industrial equipment salesman, were divorced in the mid-1990s.
In addition to her son Joseph, she is survived by her other children; her mother; three sisters, Julie Lindahl, Susan Ahlman and Joyce Wilson; three brothers, Richard, David and Scott; and five grandchildren.
Joseph Frustaci said that even through the difficult years his mother “was really the strength of the family.” All three of the surviving septuplets are doing well, he said. Her daughter Patti Carpenter is married with two children; her son Richard lives independently; and her son Stephen is cared for by his father.
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