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  September 16, 2002

Zipadelli Quadruplets Start New
Lives as Freshmen at UConn
By Claudia G. Chamberlain

From the cradle to the campus, the state's first surviving quadruplets have a strong bond with UConn.

Born at the UConn Health Center 18 years ago as premature babies, each weighing no more than 2? pounds and with a 50/50 chance of survival, the four Zipadelli quads these days are running up and down stairs in Buckley and around the Storrs campus.

Image: Zipadelli quadruplets
From left, Kristen, James, Dan and Mark Zipadelli, on the steps of the Homer Babbidge Library

Photo by Peter Morenus

But although the four freshmen - Kristin, Mark, James, and Daniel - live in the same residence hall, they keep individual schedules.

"Since we were little, we always wanted to attend UConn and have followed UConn basketball since we were seven years old," said James Zipadelli, who was the third to be born.

He said UConn is a "perfect fit" because of its "great" academic and music programs. Two of the four are music education majors, but all four are participants in UConn's music programs.

"We decided we were not going to room together because college offers varying degrees of independence," he said. "Obviously, we wanted that, but we also wanted to stay close if we needed to talk. It makes the whole transition process a lot easier."

James is pondering a career in journalism and has already signed on as a reporter for the student newspaper, The Daily Campus, contributing to the coverage of Gov. John G. Rowland's recent on-campus signing of the 21st Century UConn bill. He also successfully auditioned for the University's choral program.

Both Kristin and Daniel have similar goals: to teach music education in Connecticut high schools. The two arrived on campus in mid-August to learn marching band drills, but got hooked a year earlier when they attended Band Day on campus.

Kristin, the first to be born, plays the piccolo in the Marching Band and the flute in the Symphonic Band; Daniel, the last born, is a clarinetist in both bands.

"Our hope is to help change the lives of high school kids by showing them what a great reward music can be," said the two.

Mark, the second born, plays trumpet in the Marching Band but hopes to major in computer science.

"The good thing about college is that it allows us to major in what we like and to really experience life," he said, adding that although being there together offers a nice comfort zone, the siblings also give each other space.

"We love each other and we hold onto to one another for moral support," Mark said, "but when we graduate, we're not going to get a big house and live together."

All four graduated with honors in June from Avon High School. They said their childhoods revolved around family life and teamwork.

"A lot of kids grow up today with materialistic things," said Kristin. "We never got the latest video game; what we did get were values."

Their high school graduation photos in state newspapers brought smiles to the Health Center's medical staff.

Dr. Winston Campbell, who successfully delivered the Zipadelli quadruplets as a young physician, still has their baby pictures in his office in Farmington.

"I remember the day they were born," he said, "and seeing their high school graduation photos in the newspaper gave me a real good feeling."

The Health Center's Maternal-Fetal Medicine team, he said, took an aggressive and intensive approach in order to save all four babies, that included their mother's early and lengthy hospitalization.

After being hospitalized for nearly four months, she delivered the quadruplets at six-and-a-half months. The babies remained in intensive care for up to five months.

Campbell who graduated from the UConn School of Medicine in 1973 and also completed his residency training at the Health Center, said the deliveries on June 13, 1984, became a model for multiple births.

"Since the Zipadelli births, we've established a clinical management plan for high-order multi-fetal births," said Campbell, noting that the survival rate is roughly 85 to 90 percent for these often difficult births.

Jim Walter, the Health Center's associate vice president of communications, said a number of nurses who assisted in the Zipadelli deliveries are also still at the hospital.

"It's great for them to see such a nice result," said Walter.

The quads' parents, David, a math teacher at Simsbury High School, and Marie, a project manager at CIGNA HealthCare, said they worked hard at ensuring that their children would grow up as individuals.

"We tried to foster their individual creativity," said David. Both he and his wife credit a volunteer corps of family and friends for helping them through the early child-raising years.

"Our children adapted so well to everyone," he said. "They knew they had to be patient and needed to share things. That's how they grew up."

Putting four children through college all at once is quite a challenge.

"Like other families, it's a daily struggle," said David. "We're using a variety of loans and other financial avenues, but we're looking at nearly a third of a million dollars to get all four through UConn."

They believe it's worth it. Already the Zipadelli freshmen are assimilating into college life, growing up, making their own decisions, hoping to be successful, and remembering to say thanks to their parents.

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