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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Everyone is home for the holiday
The sixth, and final, Byler baby left the hospital in time for a day of giving thanks.
By LISA BUIE and DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writers
Published November 22, 2007
The Byler sextuplets, from left, Charlie Craig, Jackson Robert, Brady Christopher, MacKenzie Margaret, Eli Benjamin and Ryan Patrick huddle together as their father, Ben Byler, snaps their first group photo since the last of the sextuplets, Charlie Craig, came home from the hospital at the Byler's home in Wesley Chapel on Wednesday. The siblings were born Sept. 1.
[Stephen J. Coddington | Times]
[James Borchuck | Times]
Charlie, the last of the Byler sextuplets to go home, was discharged from All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
WESLEY CHAPEL - The last of the Byler sextuplets made it home Wednesday evening, giving even more meaning to his parents' Thanksgiving holiday.
Charlie Craig Byler, weighing 6 1/2 pounds, left All Children's Hospital after a news conference at which Ben and Karoline Byler showed off his five siblings.
"I'm exhausted," said Karoline, the mother of Florida's first surviving sextuplets.
Charlie, who weighed 2 pounds, 5 ounces at birth, was breathing through an oxygen tube when he left the hospital, but that's not unusual, said Dr. Danilo Escoto, a neonatologist at All Children's. Some babies need extra oxygen for months, but Charlie's lungs should grow normally, he said.
"When you say you've come a long way, baby," Escoto said, "this baby has come a long way."
The Bylers' new silver 10-passenger van rolled up to their Wesley Chapel home about 6 p.m.
"It usually takes 20 or 30 minutes to get them out, and it's crazy," Karoline said.
One by one, each car seat was taken inside. Ryan was the first to start crying for dinner. Karoline fed him a bottle, while Ben did diaper duty and helped feed the others using foam bottle props, which prop a bottle in their mouths so they can eat without mom and dad.
Four-year-old big sister Zoe even got in on the act, feeding her little sister, MacKenzie.
The babies, born Sept. 1, aren't even 3 months old yet, but already their personalities are emerging.
"Jackson's the drama queen," joked Karoline. "He cries constantly and wants to be cuddled."
Ryan cries when he's hungry, but once fed, "he never makes a peep." MacKenzie is also "really mellow," while Eli is "big and strong and eats a lot." Then there's Brady, the whiner. "He has a really loud scream; it sounds like he's hoarse."
Karoline, 29, and Ben, 30, became parents to the six babies after using infertility treatments in an effort to give Zoe a sibling.
Ben, who has been sharing night duty since he has been on leave from his job, said it takes its toll. "You can't remember things," he said. "You're not yourself."
Several members of Karoline and Ben's church have volunteered to come by to help out next week. They'll be especially welcome, Karoline said, since Ben will be returning to work Monday after taking a month off.
As Karoline fed a baby and the others rocked and cried in their swings, Ben did an interview. He reflected on how far the family has come since the ultrasound showed six babies.
Some doctors advised the Bylers to remove some of the fetuses to give the remaining ones a better chance to survive. The Bylers, who are Catholic, said they decided against that based on faith. "We prayed to the Lord every night," Ben said. "We've been blessed. We're ecstatic about the choice we made."