Blessed event times seven Septuplets: A day after welcoming seven little ones into the world, their father is enjoying the wonder of it all.

November 21, 1997|By Ken Fuson | Ken Fuson,SUN STAFF

CARLISLE, Iowa -- This is what you say one day after your wife has given birth to seven healthy babies: "Wow."

Looking like a man who may never stop smiling, Kenny McCaughey stood at the altar in his small-town church and described the joy of fathering septuplets -- the four boys and three girls who were born Wednesday in a Des Moines hospital.

"This is one of the most blessed events that I have ever encountered," said McCaughey, 27, a billing clerk at a car dealership here. "We're just ecstatic."

While he beamed, the family was promised everything from a new home to a lifetime supply of Pampers. Donations and offers rolled into this town of 3,500, located seven miles south of Des Moines. McCaughey drove away from a news conference in a 15-passenger, $28,000 Chevrolet Express van donated by his employer.

The well-wishers included President Clinton, who congratulated the couple in a telephone call yesterday.

Earlier, McCaughey reported that his wife, Bobbi, 29, "is doing pretty well" and the seven babies were "very healthy, very good."

Doctors confirmed his observation. All seven babies, whose weights at birth ranged from 3 pounds, 4 ounces to 2 pounds, 5 ounces, were listed in serious condition at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. They remain in a special intensive-care unit for high-risk newborns, but doctors said they are progressing as well as can be expected for infants born nine weeks early.

There are no known sets of surviving septuplets in the world. Doctors said they have every reason to believe the McCaugheys will be the first.

"All of the babies have been maintained warm and pink and comfortable," said Dr. Robert Shaw, a neonatologist who is in charge of the babies' care. He said all seven spent a restful first night, "and that was our goal."

While cautious, Shaw said, "We have extremely high expectations for them and we think they will meet them." He described those expectations as "not only survival, but thriving."

All seven infants developed a degree of respiratory distress syndrome, a common affliction in premature babies. Their breathing is being assisted with ventilators, Shaw said. He expects the babies to be weaned from the machines in four to five days.

Dr. Marilee Allen, acting director of neonatology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said respiratory distress syndrome, or Hyaline membrane disease, occurs because premature babies do not manufacture enough surfactant, a substance in the lungs that keeps air sacs open. With the aid of ventilators, "they don't have to work so hard," she said.

Allen said babies born in the 30th or 31st week of gestation have immature organ systems and are susceptible to bleeding in the brain, putting them at a higher risk of disability. Shaw said the McCaughey children will soon be checked for bleeding, but there are no obvious signs of it now.

One baby, Joel, lost some blood Wednesday and was listed in critical condition for a few hours, but tests showed that it was not caused by bleeding in the brain. He responded well to treatment, "and rejoined the race with his brother and sisters," Shaw said.

If all goes well, the babies could be home in nine to 10 weeks, their initial due date, he said. Once the babies are breathing on their own, doctors will want them to grow, eat and maintain a consistent temperature, "not easily done in an Iowa winter," Shaw said.

Doctors said the babies had formed an inverted pyramid inside the womb, with one of the boys, nicknamed "Hercules," holding the other six inside.

"It would appear that the babies are thriving at having a bit more space," Shaw said.

The entire McCaughey family may have a bit more space soon. Iowa's governor, Terry E. Branstad, said state builders and companies will build and furnish a new home to replace the couple's two-bedroom home. They have another child, Mikayla, who is almost 2.

Kenny McCaughey said he introduced Mikayla to her team of siblings Wednesday night. "She just kind of sat in my arms and said, 'Baby.' "

Nurse Julie Oliver said Bobbi McCaughey visited the babies Wednesday night, examining each child. "Some have little fat cheeks and some have little fat thighs," Oliver said. She said Bobbi McCaughey stopped at the seventh child. "Oh, my, he has Kenny's toes," she said.

The couple's neighbors, friends and family gathered at the Missionary Baptist Church in Carlisle, where Kenny McCaughey received gifts including a year's supply of groceries, strollers and baby seats and the keys to a new van. Church members promised to help with baby-sitting, cooking and anything else the family needs.

A deeply religious man, McCaughey looked as if he had won the grand prize in a spiritual game show. "I've grown up here," he said, fighting tears. "It just feels like a family. It's one of the best places to live."

McCaughey wore a plastic patch on his shirt that said: "It's a Boy! It's a Girl! It's a Boy! It's a Girl! It's a Boy! It's a Girl! It's a Boy!" His tie said, "Just fix it." (His father is a mechanic.)

Although his new van has room for extra passengers, McCaughey waved his hands when asked if there would be additional family members.

"Oh, no, no, no, no," he said, smiling. "Hopefully, medically, that has been taken care of."

Two Carlisle, Iowa, banks also have set up funds where donations can be sent. The addresses are:

McCaughey Babies

Hartford-Carlisle Savings Bank, P.O. Box D, Carlisle, Iowa 50047

The McCaughey Babies Fund

First Bank Iowa, P.O. Box V, Carlisle, Iowa 50047-0721

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Pub Date: 11/21/97

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