The birth of a child represents one of the most important moments in a couple’s life. For Patricia and Samuel Frustaci, though, everything changed in 1985 when she delivered not one, but seven babies. After all, it was thought to have been the first time that septuplets had been born in the U.S., and as a result she was thrust into the national spotlight. However, in February 2018 her oldest son, Joseph, had some sad news regarding his groundbreaking mother.
Patricia was born at the Hill Air Force Base, Utah, on November 19, 1954, to parents Richard and Bonnie Jorgensen. Mom was a homemaker, while Dad Richard served in the Air Force before moving into advertising. As their daughter grew up, though, her ambition became clear.
Midway through the 1970s, Patricia earned a bachelor’s degree in English. This then spurred her on to get a master’s from the California State University in Fullerton. She eventually became a teacher and married Samuel Frustaci in 1981. However, the newlyweds faced an unfortunate challenge in their attempts to start a family.
Fortunately, though, the couple’s initial infertility came to an end thanks to a drug named Pergonal. And as a result of that fertility treatment, Patricia finally gave birth to her first child, Joseph, in March 1984. Happy with their success, the pair persisted with the drug, longing to add more new faces to their family.
Patricia fell pregnant for the second time in November 1984. However, her life changed forever when an ultrasound two months later revealed that she was carrying multiple babies. Seven of them, to be precise. Concerned about the possible health risks to both mother and babies, her obstetrician proposed abortion as one of several potential measures. However, that suggestion met with a very stern response.
As it turned out, Patricia and Samuel were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a restorationist church that strongly opposes elective abortion. “With our religious background and all we had gone through to have kids, that just wasn’t an option,” the mother told The New York Times in 1985. So, regardless of the risks, she wanted to give birth to her septuplets.
Unfortunately, the birth proved somewhat problematic for Patricia. The babies, four boys and three girls, were delivered via C-section on May 21, 1985 – or 12 weeks premature. Sadly, the seventh child, named Christina, was stillborn. Yet despite that heartbreak, Patricia’s remarkable pregnancy caught the attention of the media.
Indeed, several news stations claimed that Patricia’s septuplets were the first to be born in the United States. But as the media’s focus intensified, doctors continued to battle to save the surviving six babies. After all, the children all suffered with jaundice, heart issues and a respiratory issue known as hyaline membrane disease. Then, three days after the C-section, the mother faced further heartbreak.
One of the baby boys, David, passed away while in intensive care. Patricia, too, remained in the hospital for over a week following the birth. Doctors eventually discharged her in June 1985, but her surviving children stayed under close observation. Prior to her departure, though, the new mom did get the chance to hold her babies for the first time.
“They’re beautiful,” Patricia told reporters when leaving the hospital. “I just hope they live.” Unfortunately, her wish didn’t entirely come true, as two more of the septuplets, Bonnie and James, died in intensive care. The three surviving babies, however, eventually came home to their loving parents, despite continued health concerns.
The trio, named Richard, Stephen and Patricia, still naturally needed a lot of care, but Patricia and Samuel’s life was further complicated by criticisms in the media. “One baby is excellent,” fertility expert Dr. Heather Irwin told The Miami Herald in May 1985. “Two is acceptable. Anything more than twins is bad medicine.”
Unsurprisingly, the pair hit back at their detractors and reiterated their original intentions. “By no means did we set out to have twins or triplets or more than one child,” Samuel told The New York Times. “We were not out to set any records.” However, the problems didn’t stop there.
Indeed, Patricia and Samuel decided to sue the Tyler Medical Clinic and fertility specialist Dr. Jaroslav Marik in October 1985, suggesting malpractice. Among the contentions in their lawsuit, they claimed that Patricia’s dosage of Pergonal was too high. And five years later, they reached a settlement.
The couple received a one-time payment of $450,000 as well as additional monthly payments to cover the surviving septuplets’ care. “There is not a day that goes by that we don’t talk about them,” Patricia said of her lost children in a deposition. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t look at their pictures.”
Although the situation had a profound effect on her life, Patricia continued on. In fact, despite everything that had happened following the birth of the septuplets, Patricia still wanted to grow her family further. This led to her undergoing additional successful fertility treatments.
Yes, Patricia gave birth to twins Jordan and Jaclyn in 1990. But it sadly wasn’t all happy families. In fact, midway through the ’90s, Patricia and Samuel got a divorce, and Patricia went to live with her son Joseph’s family. That is, until Joseph revealed some very sad news.
On February 10, 2018, Patricia passed away in a San Diego hospital as a result of pulmonary fibrosis complications. She was 63. And understandably, her firstborn was heartbroken. “She was the funnest person I’ve ever known,” Joseph told Fox News at the time. “She made regular, mundane errands an adventure. We miss her terribly. We miss her deeply.”
As for the surviving septuplets, their older brother claims that they’re living good lives. Richard currently lives on his own, while Samuel looks after Stephen. Elsewhere, their sister Patricia has two children and is happily married. The monthly payments from the settlement continue to come in for the family as well, with more than $1.5 million having been paid to date.
In addition to Joseph and his siblings, Patricia is also survived by her mother, three sisters, three brothers and five grandchildren. However, when thinking back to 1985, Joseph believed that Patricia couldn’t properly mourn the loss of her four children. “Really, all she wanted was to be a mother, and I think the media got in the way, for a time, of her being able to be a loving and nurturing mother,” he told Fox News.
So when Patricia’s life changed forever on May 21, 1985, following the birth of her septuplets, she found herself in the public eye, suffering heartbreaking losses along the way. Yet despite her sad passing, this remarkable woman’s story can now be shared.