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Children's lives could be saved through heart screening, Oklahoma advocates say

House Bill 1347 would require that any birthing hospital in Oklahoma to perform a pulse oximetry screening, which can detect congenital heart defects in newborns.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: March 21, 2013

It's hard to sit in a waiting room, knowing that your child's heart is going to be stopped.

But only 51/2 months after Anderson was born, Meredith Smith and her husband, Drew, sat waiting as their son underwent major heart surgery.

“It's really hard to describe how hard it is to know you have no control, that your child's life is in these surgeons' hands, and you're in a waiting room, not there, and you can't be next to your son while he's going through all this,” Meredith Smith said.

This wasn't Anderson's first surgery. It won't be the last.

When Anderson Smith was born, the left side of his heart wasn't fully developed. This wasn't immediately obvious, for Anderson was born weighing 9 pounds and showed no sign of a heart condition.

Meredith Smith, of Tulsa, said had the hospital run a simple test on Anderson known as a pulse oximetry screening, they would have recognized sooner that Anderson suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

The pulse oximetry screening is used to detect some heart defects in newborns but isn't always performed before the newborn leaves the hospital. A bill before the Legislature would change that.

House Bill 1347 would require that any birthing facility in Oklahoma perform a pulse oximetry screening on every newborn in its care before the infant left the facility. The bill has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives and awaits approval in the Senate.

This year, 25 states, including Oklahoma, are considering legislation or regulations requiring this screening for newborn babies, according to the American Heart Association. Eight states have signed pulse oximetry legislation into law.

Thankfully for the Smith family, a pediatrician caught a heart murmur and ordered an echocardiogram for Anderson, a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

But this isn't the case for all families.

“I would like to see it be a law because — we meet parents of kids in Tulsa at St. Francis Children's Hospital who are from smaller towns, and it went undetected,” she said.

Most common defect

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting nearly 1 percent of births per year, an estimated 40,000 births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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It's really hard to describe how hard it is to know you have no control, that your child's life is in these surgeons' hands, and you're in a waiting room, not there, and you can't be next to your son while he's going through all this.”

Meredith Smith,
When her son Anderson Smith was born, the left side of his heart wasn't fully developed.

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