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.
In the United States, more than 1 million adults are living with congenital heart defects, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
One of the ways a congenital heart defect is diagnosed is through a pulse oximetry screening. The screening is a painless and noninvasive test usually delivered within a day or two days after birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the screening, a small sensor is attached to a finger or toe, similar to an adhesive bandage, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The sensor gives an estimate of how much oxygen is in the blood, according to the institute.
The test cannot detect all heart defects. It is most likely to detect seven of the congenital heart defects found in children.
The Oklahoma Hospital Association surveyed Oklahoma's 59 birthing hospitals and found that many hospitals already perform the test or have the equipment to do so.
Patti Davis, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said the organization isn't opposed to the bill.
However, she said, requiring a pulse oximetry screening for every child born in Oklahoma could be passed as a rule administered through the state Health Department, rather than as a requirement under state law.
“When you start putting standards of care in law, then when the standards of care change, you have to go back and amend law to bring them up to date,” Davis said.
Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, authored House Bill 1347 after talking with a friend who had a child with a heart defect.
Kirby said he has received broad support from many lawmakers and health organizations for the bill.
“Hopefully, once it gets passed, it will save lives,” Kirby said. “It will keep the babies that are being dropped through the cracks at birthing facilities that are, for some reason, not using this procedure. It will cause them to have to.”
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.”
When her son Anderson Smith was born, the left side of his heart wasn't fully developed.