Seventeen-year old-quadruplets Grace, Danny, Bobby and Erin Mele talk to...

Seventeen-year old-quadruplets Grace, Danny, Bobby and Erin Mele talk to their mom, Patricia, in their Setauket home. (Dec. 29, 2009) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Ever since she was in nursing school, Patricia Mele has been fascinated by neonatal care. That interest came in handy when she found out she was pregnant with quadruplets.

In 1992, she spent the final 63 days of her pregnancy in the ante-partum unit at Stony Brook University Medical Center. At birth, Grace was 1 pound, 15 ounces; Erin, 2 pounds; Bobby, 2 pounds, 5 ounces; and Danny, 2 pounds, 8 ounces. The quads spent nearly eight weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, where Mele worked as a nurse practitioner.

Mele, of Setauket, had earned her bachelor's degree in nursing at Stony Brook and was in the middle of her master's, but took a break to start motherhood. Caring for four tiny children "made me like a robot," she said. "I didn't sleep for the first three years."

She finished her master's degree when the quads were 2. Recently, with the quadruplets in high school, Mele joined Stony Brook's first class in the Doctor of Nursing program. She graduated this month.

She admitted to feeling guilt at missing out on time with her children, but said all four urged her to pursue her doctorate.

"I've told the kids that you always want to aspire to be the best you can be," she said. "With a doctorate, I can be a better practitioner, and they understand that."

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