Guest Blogger: Michelle Spillane
This year the Alaska Legislature passed an important piece of legislation that will affect newborns and families like ours. In 2003, when our daughter, Aubrey, was born she underwent the newborn screening given at the hospital. Only hours later, her lips and fingernail beds began to turn blue and her breathing became very belabored. After further evaluation, including a pulse oximetry test, it was determined that Aubrey had a birth defect known as coarctation of the aorta. Her aorta was pinched so severely it has to be repaired immediately to keep her alive. She was medevaced to Anchorage and then on to Portland where she had open heart surgery. During her medical emergency, doctors told us that since she had passed the initial newborn screening available at that time, she may have passed away at home had her condition not required immediate attention during our hospital stay. Had the pulse oximetry test been a part of the newborn screening process it would have been immediately apparent that Aubrey was suffering from a critical congenital heart defect. With the passage of SB 87, Alaskan families like ours will receive a lifesaving pulse oximetry test during the initial newborn screening. We are grateful to our Alaskan legislators and the American Heart Association for moving to make this simple test a requirement for all newborn screenings in our state.