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Smallest of Remaining Frustaci Infants Dies

Times Staff Writer

The smallest and sickest of the 16-day-old surviving Frustaci septuplets died of cardiac and respiratory failure Thursday in his parents’ arms.

James Martin Frustaci, the second-born of seven, died at 11:04 a.m. at Childrens Hospital of Orange County, “after a valiant struggle for life,” said the babies’ chief doctor, Carrie Worcester. James died four days after his condition and that of his sister, Bonnie Marie, began to deteriorate.

James’ death leaves four surviving septuplets, born 12 weeks premature to Patti and Samuel Frustaci of Riverside on May 21. The mother, a high school English teacher, had taken fertility drugs.

A girl later named Christina Elizabeth was stillborn. A boy named David Anthony, nicknamed “Peanut,” died May 24 after a 64-hour struggle against illness.

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Bonnie Marie, the fourth-born, is continuing to fight for her life, with only a “very, very small chance for survival,” said Worcester, head of the neonatal intensive care unit at Childrens Hospital.

The other three babies are making small daily improvements, officials said.

“I think the hardest thing for me is to realize how similar James was to ‘Peanut,’ in so many ways,” a tearful Samuel Frustaci said at a press conference to announce his son’s death.

James shared similar features with his dead brother, “and one thing no one will ever be able to deny, that he had the same fighting spirit to live as ‘Peanut,’ ” the father said.

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“It’s sad to contemplate death, but yet we know, too, that he has gone to the place from which he came and his little brother ‘Peanut’ and his sister Christina are waiting for him to come,” Samuel Frustaci said.

All the septuplets have suffered from hyaline membrane disease, which makes their lungs tend to collapse after each breath because the air sacs lack a lubricating substance. All are on ventilators in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Worcester said James’ respiratory functions had “remarkably worsened” in the last several days and the infant went into “respiratory and cardiac arrest this morning in his parents’ arms.”

Samuel Frustaci said he and his wife were notified two days ago that “it would be very possible that within a 24-hour-period both Bonnie Marie and James would no longer be with us.

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“However, with the God-given spirit that seems to be evident in all of my children, James and Bonnie have been able to last longer than they expected them to.”

Bonnie, he said, “is fighting for her life and she’s hanging on by a thread. We’re hoping and praying that she’ll be able to hang on a little longer.”

While all of the infants still are battling lung disease, the three who are expected to survive have overcome jaundice and an opening in a duct between the heart and lung.


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