Everyone in the chamber for DC’s pulse ox hearing listened incredulously as parent after parent shared heart wrenching stories of newborns diagnosed with critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) and how use of a simple test called pulse oximetry saves lives. Every year, more than 6,000 babies are born with some form of a critical congenital heart defect. In the District of Columbia alone, up to 10 infants may die or go undiagnosed every year due to a lack of screening.
“Every baby deserves the best chance of survival,” said mother Hilary Mehrkam, who testified in support of the Healthy Hearts of Babies Act of 2015 in the DC Council Committee on Health and Human Services on February 2.
Young CCHD survivors stole the show as they expressed their thankfulness for the use of pulse oximetry, without which they might not be alive today. Eleven-year-old Mirabel told Councilmember Yvette Alexander because of pulse ox she can now grow up to be an animal nutritionist. Tristan expressed his excitement about doing well in school and participating in cub scouts. Several others, too young to talk, were silent witnesses supporting the lifesaving assessment.
DC Bill 21-6, the Healthy Hearts of Babies Act of 2015 appeals to both parents and medical practitioners since, according to You’re the Cure Advocate Lisa Hom of Children’s National Medical Center, “No doctor wants to be the one who sends a baby home undiagnosed.”
Pulse ox screening is simple, painless, inexpensive, and non-invasive. Research suggests that by pairing this test with already routine prenatal measures, over 90% of newborn CCHD cases can be detected. Over 40 other states have already passed legislation mandating the use of pulse oximetry screening.
This legislation was co-introduced by the majority of the DC Council, but it is still important to write, call, or email your Councilmembers and tell them you support pulse oximetry screening. There are many benefits of this bill, but according to mom Amy Shalawylo, “the peace of mind is priceless.”
Pictured are invested parents and their children who testified before the DC Council at the hearing for pulse ox screening.
<Special thanks to You’re the Cure Intern Kassie Crook for help developing this blog post>