The 2013 Legislative session included some notable victories in addressing cardiovascular disease. LB 225, known as the Newborn Critical Congenital Heart Disease Screening Act, was introduced by Senator Jim Smith. It was passed by the Legislature and then signed into law by Governor Heineman. The new law will require screenings for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) for Nebraska newborns. CCHD is a life threatening condition that requires surgery or catheter intervention within the first year of life. Failure to detect CCHD and late detection of CCHD may lead to serious morbidity or death. Fortunately, an emerging body of evidence suggests that measuring blood oxygen saturation can lead to early diagnosis and detection of CCHD. Pulse oximetry testing is conducted to estimate the percentage of hemoglobin in the blood that is saturated with oxygen. New research suggests that when all infants are screened using pulse oximetry in conjunction with the routine practices, CCHD can be detected in over 90% of newborns with CCHD.
Another victory in addressing heart disease was the appropriation of $150,000 for cardiac monitors for rural EMS rescue services. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans experience ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) – the deadliest type of heart attack. When a person has a STEMI heart attack, the blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. Unless the blockage is eliminated quickly, the patient’s health and life are at serious risk.
Outfitting our rescue services with cardiac monitors with 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) capability and having EMS personnel trained in identification of STEMI is crucial in closing the gap in the system of care. A 12-Lead ECG is a device that ambulances and EMS personnel must have to quickly diagnose a STEMI. A 12-Lead ECG measures and diagnoses abnormal rhythms of the heart. Having ambulances equipped with 12-Leads is absolutely essential in quickly diagnosing a STEMI patient and increasing their chance for survival. The longer the blockage is left untreated, your chances of surviving a STEMI decrease. The $150,000 appropriation is a nice start in beginning to address the shortage of cardiac monitors with 12-Lead capability in Nebraska.
Both of these life-saving policy victories could not have happened without the hard work of so many dedicated advocates. It was a very rewarding experience and a lot of fun working with so many great advocates this past session such as 11-year old Cole Klein. Cole was born with a critical congenital heart defect and testified in support of LB 225. Cole’s final message in his testimony to the legislative committee was: “Screening for babies for heart defects will give many children, like me, a fighting chance. A chance we need … a chance I think we should have.”
When you have advocates like Cole Klein on your side, the sky is the limit on what can be accomplished. That said, much work remains. We look forward to the 2014 session and building on the momentum that has already been achieved.