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Frustaci Girl Who Outlived Forecasts Dies

Times Staff Writer

Bonnie Marie Frustaci, the septuplet who for so long beat the odds against her survival, died Sunday afternoon of the same ailment that killed two of her brothers.

“Bonnie Marie lasted a week longer than they gave her,” said Sam Frustaci. “She fought long and hard. I can honestly say she was a real fighter, possessed of tremendous spirit. She joins her brothers and sister in heaven.”

The 19-day-old infant died at 12:25 p.m. in the newborn intensive care unit of Childrens Hospital of Orange County of “cardiopulmonary failure and arrest due to severe hyaline membrane disease,” said hospital spokesman Doug Wood.

Patti Frustaci, 30, a Riverside school teacher, had spent the morning with Bonnie Marie, while her husband, who works as a salesman for a Buena Park firm, was alerted to his daughter’s failing condition and arrived at the hospital about mid-morning. They were later joined by both of the Frustacis’ parents.

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At a press conference, which the parents did not attend, Wood said, “The baby died in her parents’ arms.”

Cause of Deaths

Wood said there was no medical explanation of why Bonnie Marie, the fourth born of the seven babies, survived a week longer than doctors predicted.

“She was a fighter, and . . . that’s the only thing I think you can really say,” Wood said. “Every child is different, and they can surprise you. And Bonnie Marie did.”

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The septuplets were delivered 12 weeks premature by Caesarean section on May 21 at nearby St. Joseph Hospital. One, Christina Elizabeth, was stillborn.

David Anthony, nicknamed “Peanut” because of his diminutive size, died 64 hours after birth. Bonnie Marie’s death followed that of her brother, James Martin, by three days.

Those three deaths were attributed to hyaline membrane disease, an ailment common among premature babies that causes the lungs to collapse after each breath because the infants lack a substance to keep the air sacs open.

The three surviving septuplets, Patricia Ann, Richard Charles and Stephen Earl, also suffer from the disease and are breathing with the aid of respirators. Although still considered to be in critical condition, those three “are showing improvement daily” and are expected to survive.

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