Riverside County woman who gave birth in Orange County to septuplets in 1985 dies at age 63
A longtime Riverside County woman who more than three decades ago gave birth to septuplets at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange in what was then the largest multiple birth in the United States died on Saturday.
A service is set for March 2 to remember Patti Frustaci, 63, who drew national attention following the birth of her seven children. The cause of Frustaci’s death was not disclosed in an obituary prepared by the Acheson & Graham Garden of Prayer Mortuary in Riverside.
In the mid-1980s, Frustaci, then an English teacher at Rubidoux High School, and her husband, Sam, sought fertility assistance. The couple had a son.
On May 21, 1985, the babies were born 12 weeks prematurely. Doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital, who had spent months preparing for the births, delivered the four boys and three girls by Cesarean section.
The smallest child, Christina Elizabeth, was stillborn. Within weeks, three more of the infants died because of health problems that affect premature babies.
The medical expenses soon rose to more than $1 million. The bills were only partially offset by offers of free food, goods and services that quickly faded away, along with an exclusive interview contract the family had with People magazine.
Months after the births, the family filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the fertility clinic that treated Frustaci. The suit accused the clinic and the doctor who treated her of failing to properly monitor her during the pregnancy, leading to health problems suffered by the three surviving children.
The fertility specialist who treated Frustaci, Dr. Jaroslav Marik, denied any blame for the septuplets’ health issues. Instead, the doctor accused her of not following his instructions during her pregnancy.
In 1990, the fertility clinic agreed to settle the malpractice lawsuit for $450,000 and monthly payments for the rest of the three children’s lives. At the time, it was estimated that the settlement could ultimately end up being as much as $6 million.
Six year’s after the birth of the septuplets, Patti gave birth to healthy twins, following a pregnancy that was also aided by a fertility drug. As the glare of the media faded, the family came to see their time in the spotlight as an ordeal.
In a deposition tied to the lawsuit, Sam Frustaci described the media coverage as “so overbearing that I couldn’t even take a shower without somebody being on my front doorstep wanting to do an interview.”
In 1997, following the birth of septuplets to a family in Iowa, Sam Frustaci told a Riverside Press-Enterprise reporter that he didn’t want to talk about the family’s personal lives: “I don’t want people to know how I’m doing, how the kids are doing. I really don’t want to go there.”
Years earlier, in a deposition tied to the lawsuit, Patti Frustaci described the emotional fallout from the childrens’ deaths.
“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t talk about them,” she said. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t look at their pictures.”
She spoke of her love for the surviving children.
“When you’ve gone through infertility and you’ve tried so hard to have a child, and then for four to be taken, each one is precious and each one is unique and I grew to love each child,” she said.
Family members could not be reached this week for comment.
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