Wonder and gratitude fill parents of quints

January 31, 1995|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Sun Staff Writer

Ever since an astonished doctor counted five beating hearts on an ultrasound screen, Ruth and David Good have heard plenty of advice about raising babies. No doubt, the best came from a national group that helps parents cope with babies that come in threes, fours and more.

The recommendation went something like this: "Accept all help."

Yesterday, looking calm and relieved not quite a week after the arrival of healthy quintuplets, the Goods said their 80-year-old farm house in York County, Pa., should be running like a well-staffed nursery in another six weeks or so.

By that time, Nathan, Patricia, Amanda, Phillip and Katelyn will probably get bundled up and sent home from the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, where they were born a minute apart last Wednesday in a Caesarean delivery.

Friends skilled at diapering, dressing and calming fussy babies have organized themselves into four shifts so the Goods will have help at all times. Two people will staff each of the day and evening shifts. One person will help through the night.

Much of the aid has come from the North Harford Baptist Church in Jarrettsville, whose congregants have purchased and lent all of the blankets, clothing, nightgowns, cribs, strollers and car seats the Goods should need. Churchgoers have even volunteered to wash and fold laundry.

But for now, Mr. and Mrs. Good are thinking more about the wonder of what happened last Wednesday when a team of 24 doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists delivered the quints in a flurry of efficiency that left the parents both grateful and overwhelmed.

"It was miraculous -- we're just thankful to God," said Mr. Good, 28, who manages a small business in Baltimore.

"Well, we always wanted a big family," said Mrs. Good, also 28. She had been an elementary school music teacher until she began devoting all her energies last year to preparing for the coming event. Yesterday, wearing a floral-print dress and bedroom slippers, she walked gingerly into a news conference.

Though delivered nine weeks early, the infants are not suffering any of the neurological or respiratory problems that can afflict babies who are born well before their time, doctors said.

The quints let out robust cries when they were delivered -- a harbinger that their lungs were mature enough to function without the aid of breathing machines.

"They are doing as well as can be expected for premature babies," said Dr. Ambadas Pathak, director of GBMC's neonatal intensive care unit, where the quints are scattered in plastic isolettes that are equipped with warming lights and monitors.

Dr. Pathak said the medical team was prepared for the possibility that the babies' lungs would be too small to open and close without infusions of synthetic surfactant -- a liquid that gives lungs their elasticity. None was needed.

The Goods had tried in vain for seven years to have children. About two years ago they consulted the fertility program at GBMC, and Mrs. Good began taking drugs that helped her produce healthy eggs.

After one year, she became pregnant. But there was a catch.

Fertility drugs not only enhance a woman's odds of conceiving, they also raise the odds of carrying not only twins or triplets, but quads or quints -- "multiples" once so rare they were considered phenomena.

In the absence of fertility techniques, the odds of bearing quintuplets is a distant 1 in 15 million. But in the 1990s, Maryland has been greeting about one quintet a year.

Early in her pregnancy, Mrs. Good lay next to an ultrasound machine as a radiologist scanned images on the screen to see how many babies she was carrying.

"She said, 'There's one, two.' I was wondering how high she would go," Mrs. Good recalled in good humor yesterday. "When she stopped at five, I was relieved."

Twenty-six weeks into her pregnancy, Mrs. Good began having contractions. Infants delivered that early face a high risk of death surviving with severe neurological problems. Mrs. Good went to the hospital, where she was given infusions of a drug that stopped the contractions. Back home, she used a portable infusion pump that delayed labor for another five weeks.

At 3:30 a.m. last Wednesday, Mrs. Good went into labor again.

"We took a shower, I shaved and we made breakfast," Mr. Good said. "We packed a suitcase."

Nervously, he drove 45 minutes to the hospital.

Victor A. Khouzami, the chief of obstetrics, decided that the babies had probably developed to a stage where they could survive in a healthy state outside the womb. In the operating room, he lifted the quints into the world one at a time, handing each baby to nurses who dried, wrapped and placed each one in a separate isolette.

They ranged in size from Katelyn, who weighed 2 pounds, 5.8 ounces, to Nathan, who barely exceeded 3 pounds. As most babies do, they lost weight in their first days, but Dr. Pathak predicted they would start gaining soon. Besides intravenous fluids, the infants receive feedings of formula and breast milk through tubes that pass through their mouths.

The delivery team, augmented by several nurses who were hired just for the occasion, had weeks to prepare for the hospital's first quintuplet birth but did not have to rehearse, Dr. Pathak said.

"We've had eight sets of quadruplets," he said. "If you can take care of four, you just have to add one to take care of five."

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