Patricia Frustaci, described by her son Joseph as "a normal woman thrust into notoriety," died Feb. 10 in California at the age of 63, the AP reports. Frustaci became the focus of the national news media in 1985 when she gave birth to septuplets—the first known in the US—but the deaths of her children, over $1 million in medical expenses, and criticism from the public weren't easy to handle for the English teacher. "The overall frenzy took its toll," Joseph says. Frustaci gave birth to Joseph in 1984 after using the fertility drug Pergonal. She continued to use the drug, and eight months later she was pregnant with septuplets. According to the New York Times, the seven children—four boys and three girls—were born 12 weeks premature via cesarean section. "They're beautiful," Frustaci said at the time. "I just hope they live."
One of Frustaci's baby girls was stillborn; the other septuplets had jaundice, heart problems, and more. Two boys and another girl would die before they could leave the hospital. The surviving children needed nearly round-the-clock care. Frustaci sued her fertility clinic, which settled for $450,000 and monthly payments for the remaining septuplets' medical care without admitting wrongdoing. Joseph says those payments continue and now add up to over $1.5 million. Regardless, Frustaci continued with fertility treatments and gave birth to twins in 1990. Joseph says media scrutiny and criticism made it harder for Frustaci "to be a loving and nurturing mother." Still, he says his mother "never regretted" her decision. "It gave her her children and her children are her life," he says. Frustaci died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis.