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Five babies, two twins and one happy family
By GRAHAM BRINK
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2000
TAMPA -- Since marrying three years ago, Kathy and Jack Somoano have wanted a lot of children. Kathy often told her husband, "I want four. I want four."
She got her wish, plus one, Tuesday.
And all at once.
The Somoanos became parents of the first quintuplets delivered at Tampa General Hospital and one of only a handful of sets ever born in Florida.
"A miracle happened," said 29-year-old Jack Somoano, as tears began to flow. "This is our lottery."
Alyssa Marie, Brianna Lynn, Dante Jose and identical twins Cody Louis and Evan Patrick were born by Caesarian section at 8:47 a.m. They were 12 weeks premature and weighed from 1 pound 2 ounces to 2 pounds 2 ounces, which is normal for quintuplets.
Given the circumstances, all five appear to be healthy, although they remain in critical but stable condition. Four of the five are breathing at least partly on their own. Out of an abundance of caution, the smallest, Alyssa, remained on a respirator, said Dr. David C. Gore, one of about 25 medical personnel who helped with the delivery and aftercare.
The Somoanos had tried to have children since getting married but with no success. They did not want to talk about the steps they took to conceive. Around Thanksgiving, they found out Kathy was pregnant with quintuplets.
The pregnancy proceeded without a hitch. Doctors moved her to the hospital two weeks ago only out of concerns about the long drive she had to make from her Wesley Chapel home in Pasco County if something were to go wrong, Gore said.
The hospital staff went through a few practice runs. When complications arose early this week, they all geared up for the real thing.
The five Dionne sisters born in 1934 during the Depression in a northern Ontario farmhouse were the first known quintuplets to survive more than a few days. Since then, a woman in Australia in the 1970s gave birth to nine babies, but none survived. An Iowa woman, Bobbi McCaughey, gave birth to septuplets in 1997. And two years ago, a Houston woman had eight babies, of which seven survived.
About 75 sets of quintuplets were born in the United States in 1997. The numbers have dramatically increased in the past decade with the popularity of fertility drugs and the increasing number of pregnancies among older women, who are more likely to have multiple births.
The low birth weight that accompanies most multiple-birth babies can contribute to an increase in vision and hearing impairments, mental retardation, developmental delays and even death.
Improvements in neonatal care in recent years have helped counter some of those problems. The Nelson-Folkersen quintuplets, for instance, born in St. Petersburg three years ago, all survived. The littlest, Arielle, has asthma; the others are well.
"Right now, we hope the (Somoano quintuplets) are on the path to being normal healthy kids," said Dr. Robert Nelson, a specialist in neonatal care.
Kathy Somoano was expected to be discharged late Friday or today. The babies, with hands smaller than quarters and legs so skinny a wedding ring can pass over them, will spend at least the next 10 to 12 weeks at the hospital.
The five siblings are already starting to show off their personalities, the Somoanos said. Alyssa, while the smallest, seems like she'll be the one to keep the others in line, they said. Temperamental Brianna doesn't like being disturbed. Dante -- long, skinny and feisty -- reminds the family of his father when he was born. And the twin boys spend time pulling at the leads and tubes that run into their tiny bodies.
On Friday, they all cried for the first time.
"I can't wait until I can hold them," Kathy Somoano said.
The Somoanos know they are in for a major lifestyle change, days filled with dozens of diaper changes and endless feedings. Both Jack and Kathy come from large, supportive families who live in the area, which should help, especially in the first few years, they said.
Kathy Somoano, 28, plans to go back to work in August as a general manager at a car rental business. Jack Somoano, who runs a home-based Web design business with a partner, intends to cut back on work and spend most of his time looking after the children.
For the first few months, they plan to keep the babies together in one or two cribs, something the doctors recommend. From there, they'll take it day by day, they said.
"God's watching over them," Jack Somoano said. "We know that."
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