SAN DIEGO — Patricia Frustaci, who made national headlines in 1985 when she gave birth to seven children but struggled with the financial and publicity fallout and with the heartache of seeing four babies perish, has died. She was 63.
Frustaci, who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis, died Saturday at a San Diego hospital, her eldest son, Joseph Frustaci of San Diego, said Wednesday.
Frustaci was an English teacher in Riverside and the mother of Joseph when she gave birth after undergoing fertility treatments. At the time, it was the largest multiple birth in the United States.
However, the babies were delivered 12 weeks prematurely by cesarean section and had a number of serious health problems.
One girl was stillborn, and two boys and a girl died within weeks.
Medical expenses soon topped $1 million. The family sued the fertility clinic and a doctor, alleging wrongful death of the four children and negligence that led to health problems for the surviving children.
“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t talk about them,” Frustaci, speaking of the dead children, said in a deposition. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t look at their pictures.”
The clinic later settled the lawsuit without acknowledging any wrongdoing. It agreed to pay $450,000 and to provide monthly payments to the surviving three children for life.
The financial problems, the publicity and the stress of looking after children who needed round-the-clock care took a toll on Frustaci, who also suffered from what is now known as bipolar disorder, her son said.
“It was difficult,” he said. “She’s a normal woman thrust into notoriety. … the overall frenzy took its toll.”
However Frustaci, a devout Mormon, never had second thoughts about her decision to have the fertility treatments, her son said.
“She never regretted it,” he said. “It gave her her children and her children are her life.”
In 1990, after using the same fertility drug, Frustaci gave birth to healthy twins. That boy and girl are now college graduates, Joseph Frustaci said.
Frustaci and her husband, Samuel Frustaci, later divorced and for many years she lived with her eldest son and his family.
Of the surviving septuplets, the girl is now a happily married mother of two, one boy lives alone and the other lives with his father, Joseph Frustaci said.
Frustaci also is survived by five grandchildren and a sixth “on the way,” he said.
Joseph Frustaci described his mother as someone who quickly made friends and “squeezed every drop out of life.”
“She was the funnest person I’ve ever known,” he said. “She made regular, mundane errands an adventure.
“We miss her terribly, we miss her deeply,” he said.