September 20, 2021 by John Fernandez
38 Years Ago, The Adams Quadruplets Made History at South Miami Hospital
It had never happened before in the state of Florida, and it’s happened only a few times since. On Sept. 16, 1981, Florida’s first surviving quadruplets were born at South Miami Hospital.
Patty Adams, who was just 26 at the time, had been on the fertility drug Pergonal when, on April Fool’s Day, she got the news that she was pregnant. Because there was a high risk of miscarrying, neither she nor her husband, Kent, said anything to family or friends until she was well into her third month. That was when she found out there were four babies growing in her womb.
An avid runner at the time, Mrs. Adams was put on all sorts of restrictions by her doctor, Donald Hanft, a beloved OB/GYN and one-time “Doctor of the Year” at South Miami Hospital who delivered thousands of babies during his long career.
“When we found out I had four, Dr. Hanft told me I couldn’t do anything more than walk,” Mrs. Adams remembers. “I asked him if I could ride my bike instead but he said, ‘No, you could fall. You have to stay still and think of yourself as an incubator for those babies.’ I was very athletic then and the idea of not moving? That was the hardest thing for me.”
Out of an abundance of caution, Dr. Hanft ordered bedrest for Mrs. Adams when she reached her 26th week, and admitted her to South Miami Hospital. It was important to give the babies as much gestation time as possible before birth.
“I literally never went outside of my hospital room for two months. My privilege was getting up and going to the bathroom when I needed to,” Mrs. Adams recalls. “I kept myself entertained by watching TV and reading. Kent was always traveling, and I didn’t have any family here in Miami, so I felt very isolated. I got to know all the nurses really well, though.”
According to Diane Greco, R.N., a staff nurse who has worked in South Miami Hospital’s labor and post-partum units for close to 42 years, the hospital was abuzz with excitement over the pending arrival of the Adams quadruplets.
“It’s not often you get to be a part of multiple births,” Mrs. Greco said. “Everybody on staff knew about it and was volunteering to be part of the team. I was a new nurse then, and it was an exciting time for all of us.”
Back then, Mrs. Greco says, only about 100 babies a month were delivered at South Miami Hospital, now one of the premier maternity hospitals in South Florida. “Today, we have close to 350 deliveries a month.”
When Mrs. Adams was in her 36th week, nurses couldn’t find a heartbeat for “Baby D” during a routine check. That set everything into rapid motion, and the medical teams scrambled to prepare her for a Caesarian section – the only way her four babies could be delivered safely.
Mr. Adams, a now-retired pilot for Delta Air Lines, flew in from Chicago and made it to the maternity ward at South Miami Hospital just in the nick of time, still dressed in his pilot’s uniform. Technically, he wasn’t even allowed to be in the delivery room (hospital rules at the time) but he was finally given permission after Mrs. Adams had some words with the hospital administrator just prior to delivery.
“My husband WILL come into the room and he WILL watch our babies being born,” she told him in no uncertain terms. “If not, I’m leaving here and having my babies somewhere else!”
In the crowded delivery room, each baby had its own team of doctors and nurses, and time was of the essence. Led by Dr. Hanft, with assistance from fellow OB/GYNs Julio Somoano, M.D., and Manuel Suarez-Mendizábal, M.D., and pediatrician Alvin Freund, M.D., the four teams worked with well-rehearsed precision.
After months of anticipation, the Adams quadruplets – Clayton (5 lbs., 5 oz.), Brooke (4 lbs.), Paul (5 lbs., ¼ oz.) and Lindsay (3 lbs., 15 oz.) – had arrived. Amazingly, all four babies were delivered in just 19 minutes. Lindsay, the last to come out, almost didn’t make it, according to Mrs. Adams.
“Dr. Somoano told me later that Lindsay’s head had been caught up under my rib cage,” Mrs. Adams recalls. “If I hadn’t been cut open as high up as I was, they would never have seen this and, in the process of pulling Lindsay out of me, her neck could easily have been injured, which would have caused brain damage or even stillbirth. Fortunately, she came out just fine and was incredibly healthy.”
Media interest in the quadruplets was high, naturally, and the entire Adams family – Kent, Patty, and the four babies – eventually made their first appearance together in front of an excited crowd of news reporters, photographers and hospital staff. Their story made the news around the country.
The night before being discharged, Mrs. Adams and her husband were treated to a fancy dinner at the now-shuttered Stork Club, South Miami Hospital’s private dining room where new parents could enjoy their last quiet dinner together before going home to a new routine of sleepless nights, constant feedings and endless diaper changes.
The next day, the entire Adams “Quad Squad” was chauffeured to their home in The Redlands, about 25 miles south of Miami, in a hospital van equipped with four child safety seats donated by South Miami Hospital.
With Mr. Adams’ busy flight schedule, he was hardly ever home that first month. His mother and mother-in-law provided crucial help to Mrs. Adams during that time, and later the Adamses had a young woman from England come stay with them for six months to help care for the babies.
“There were constant emotional and physical demands on us as parents,” Mrs. Adams says. “We were feeding the babies every two hours, and it took an hour just to prepare for the next feeding, so we weren’t getting a lot of sleep.”
In spite of the chaos that comes with having quadruplets, Mrs. Adams not only survived but thrived.
“If anybody was made to have four babies, it was Patty Adams,” said Mrs. Greco, the nurse from South Miami Hospital. “Not only is she very friendly and outgoing, she’s also as strong and determined a woman as you’ll ever meet.”
By the time the quadruplets were eight months old, with her husband always traveling, Mrs. Adams was raising them virtually on her own. To keep them entertained – and herself from going stir-crazy – she would take them for long walks in their four-seater stroller or load them into the family’s Volkswagen van for daily outings to Crandon Park, MetroZoo or Monkey Jungle, where they quickly became as much of an attraction as the animals themselves.
On their first birthday, South Miami Hospital threw a party for the Adams quadruplets and gave each of them a little riding horse on wheels. When they were two years old, Mrs. Adams took them to visit the endocrinologist who had told her early on that there was no way she was having quadruplets. She walked into his office and said, “Here’s what we didn’t have!”
After the quadruplets turned five, Mr. Adams was transferred to Delta’s Dallas base and the family moved to Copper Canyon, Texas, where they still live today. Three of their children reside within a 15-minute drive of the Adams’s home, and the fourth is just a few hours north in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. One of the boys, Clayton, followed in his father’s footsteps and is a pilot for American Airlines. All four have children of their own now, and Mrs. Adams is happily retired and busy being a grandmother to eight (soon to be nine) – a role she is eminently qualified for.
“People think I’m crazy, but having quads was the most amazing thing and turned out to be the biggest blessing in our life,” Mrs. Adams says. “Yes, you’re extremely busy, but it’s better than having four ‘stairstep’ babies. When one is out of diapers, they’re ALL out of diapers. My only regret is that the time just went by way too fast. I can’t believe they’re 38 now.”