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Wednesday, December 30, 1998 Published at 16:47 GMT


Octuplets mother heads home

Nkem Chukwu and her mother talk to the press on Wednesday

The mother who gave birth to eight babies has spoken publicly for the first time of her ordeal.

The BBC's Chris West: The two smallest are still tiny enough to nestle in the hand
Nkem Chukwu spoke to reporters on Wednesday as she was preparing to leave St Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Texas three months after entering to give birth.

Only seven of the octuplets remain alive after the smallest, named Odera, died on Sunday.

Four are now breathing unaided and the other three are still on respirators.

Nkem Chukwu on what she plans to do next
All are said to be in a critical but stable condition and are expected to stay in hospital for another three months.

Ms Chukwu, supported by her husband, Iyke Louis Udobi and her mother Janet, told reporters she had spent the two and a half weeks in hospital before she gave birth in bed with her head bent toward the floor.

She said: "It wasn't easy, but I did it for the love I have for them".

Feeling great

The 27-year-old delivered the first of the babies on 8 December. The other seven were born by Caesarean section 12 days later.

Ms Chukwu said she felt "great".

She said she had not considered aborting some of the foetuses to give the others more room to grow - a procedure commonly suggested in cases of multiple births.

She said: "I've never seen such a word in my Bible. I wasn't even going to give it a thought, a second thought."

She would not comment on whether the use of fertility drugs should be controlled to reduce multiple births.

She said: "I am blessed. I thank the whole world for their support and prayers."

She hoped to be able to visit her babies every day and told them when she left that they were all looking great and that she would be back to see them.

"I will be coming every day. They are part of me and I am not complete without them," she said.

Breast feeding

Dr Patti Savrick, the pediatrician in charge of the babies, said two of them had been given breast milk for the first time on Tuesday and said this was "a good sign".

She hoped the other babies could begin to take milk later this week or early next week. They are currently being fed intravenously.

Ms Chukwu can expect a slow integration back into normal life. She will have to walk more slowly and steer clear of heavy lifting for a while.

[ image: Iyke Udobi asked for help to look after the babies]
Iyke Udobi asked for help to look after the babies
The family live in a four-bedroom house, but local politician Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, is asking corporate donors to help the family of nine buy a van and a larger house.

Iyke Udobi, the babies' father, also asked for help to continue looking after them, but thanked those who had already offered their support.

The couple have already received donations of baby products, food and other goods and services to the family.

For example, the Houston-based Randalls Food Markets gave the family a $100 gift certificate for each week of 1999.

And the Nigerian embassy has donated $10,000.

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