- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2001

The newest mother of septuplets held all but two of her children for the first time yesterday morning and got great news from her homeland of Saudi Arabia: The nearly $1 million in medical bills from the multiple births will be paid by the government.
Crown Prince Abdallah announced yesterday that all expenses will be paid — no limit — by the Saudi Ministry of Health. Nail Al'jubeir, deputy director of information at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said the Saudi government regularly pays the medical bills of students on government scholarships or Saudi government workers, and often sends people overseas for treatment it cannot provide.
The family of a set of septuplets born in 1998 in Saudi Arabia has received more than $200,000 from the Saudi royal family to take care of the family.
Two of the children, a boy and a girl, are on ventilators at Georgetown University Hospital. All the babies are being given caffeine to stimulate regular breathing and are being fed intravenously with a mixture of glucose, protein and fat.
The babies were delivered late Thursday by eight doctors and dozens of nurses through a Caesarean section in three minutes. The babies weigh about 2 pounds each and are 13 to 14 inches long.
Dr. Siva Subramanian, head of neonatalogy, gives the infants a 95 percent chance of survival, now that they're 4 days old. They remain in critical condition, and it could be close to three months before they go home.
The babies are still in the neonatal intensive care unit. If the babies leave the hospital without any complications, they would be the first set of septuplets to do so.
The mother is doing well and is expected to be released by midweek.
The father, Fahad Qahtani, 29, announced the names of the children Sunday.
The babies, named for members of the Saudi royal family, in order of birth are: son Bandar, daughter Hayfa, son Naife, son Shamma, daughter Abdalla, son Abdulaziz and son Sultan.
Hospital spokeswoman Linda Shannon said things are going remarkably well.
"They are healthy and things are quiet," Ms. Shannon said.
"And they are so cute. They could fit in your hand."
Within a day of the babies' birth, the hospital had received donations of $4,500, car seats, baby clothes, toys and diapers from across the nation.
Ms. Shannon said the mother, who has not been identified, wishes to remain anonymous due to the family's Muslim and Saudi background.
Dr. Mutahar Fauzia, the mother's community physician in Arlington, said the mother was offered the option of selective reduction, or the abortion of some fetuses to save the others, when told she was having seven babies. The mother was against the procedure.
Mr. Al'jubeir predicted Mr. Qahtani, who is attending George Washington University to obtain a master's degree, will have a tough time juggling his studies with the demands of seven babies.
"I can't imagine getting up for a 3 a.m. feeding for seven. By the time you're done, it's time to start over again," he said.
"We wish them the best and with seven newborns. I would think they would need it," he said.
M. Douglas O'Malley contributed to this report.

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