Sextuplets increase population of their town by half

Monday, April 8, 2002

WICHITA, Kan. -- A day after their birth, the Kansas sextuplets were improving so quickly that one was able to take breast milk through a feeding tube, doctors said Sunday.

Four of the infants remained on respirators, but doctors expected to begin weaning them off the machines in the next 24 to 48 hours, Dr. Katherine Schooley said.

"They are absolutely excellent -- we are very pleased with the babies' size, growth and development," Schooley said.

Mother Sondra Headrick, 33, and her husband Eldon, 32, live in Rago, about 40 miles southwest of Wichita, which until Saturday had a population of 12.

Headrick carried the children -- three boys and three girls -- for 31 weeks, the longest any woman in the United States has carried sextuplets, said Dr. Van R. Bohman. A full pregnancy is 40 weeks, but in Headrick's case doctors had hoped she would carry them for at least 26 or 27 weeks.

'Another miracle'

The babies -- named Ethan Roy, Melissa Sue, Grant Douglas, Sean Edward, Jaycie Linette, and Danielle Patrice -- are to be hospitalized for four to six weeks. Their mother is expected to go home in a few days.

"She is actively collecting breast milk already -- that is another miracle," Schooley said.

Breast milk is particularly vital for premature infants because their intestines are not fully mature and breast milk is easier for them to digest, she said. The babies are now being fed intravenously. So far only one of them, Ethan, is mature enough to tolerate the milk.

Only 96 sets of sextuplets have been born worldwide since recording began in the early 1900s, said doctors at Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Joseph, where a 24-member medical team delivered the babies by Caesarean section Saturday afternoon.

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