Painless Test is Saving Lives of Babies

red_alert.jpgLast Sept, baby Charlie was born apparently healthy at Tacoma General Hospital. But an optional test picked up a life-threatening heart defect. Charlie had open heart surgery and is thriving today. The pulse-oximetry test is now being recommended for all newborns in the USA, and we hope this recommendation will spread worldwide.

Charlie’s mother, Lindsay, describes what happened as they were getting ready to leave the hospital for home with newborn Charlie.

"We were packed and ready to go, literally on our way out," she said.

But Charlie still needed two newborn tests. One, the heel prick, is mandatory. The baby's heel is poked, drawing a spot of blood. The sample is tested for genetic disorders. The other test is voluntary.

It's called pulse-oximetry. No pain, no poke… just a reading of the blood oxygen level. If it’s above 90, it signals a healthy heart. When Charlie got his test, at first no one believed the oxygen levels.

"Nurses kept switching feet, going to his hands, and they kept on registering in the 60s,” Lindsay said.

The test had picked up a life-threatening defect in Charlie's heart. Dr. Matthew Park, a pediatric cardiologist, said pulse-oximetry is offered to all newborns at Tacoma General.

"It tells us there could be a problem, like congenital heart disease," Dr. Park explained.

Babies are given the pulse-oximetry test at one day old. It's a crucial window of time before a baby would show heart defect symptoms, such as breathing or feeding difficulties, or blue-ish skin.

After his test, little Charlie was transferred to Seattle Children's Hospital where, at just six days old, he underwent open heart surgery.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has now recommended pulse-oximetry for all American newborns. And in the meantime, parents can ask for the test if their hospital doesn't routinely offer it.

PILARI urges you to ask for the pulse-oximetry test for your newborn.



Jean Enerson,

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