LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Ten-year-old Cole Klein sat matter-of-factly before a Nebraska health committee on Thursday and told lawmakers about his golf game, his sometimes-annoying little brother and his love of recess.
Then he turned to a more serious subject: The three open-heart surgeries he has endured, and the stent in his pulmonary artery to buy him time before he has to face a fourth.
Klein and his mother, Tiffany Mytty-Klein, were among a handful of advocates who urged lawmakers to support a bill that would require congenital heart screens as a way to help spot potential health threats.
"Like many children born with a heart defect, it's difficult to know about our hearts by simply looking at us," the younger Klein said. "It doesn't matter if we're 10 years old or 10 hours old. Usually, it's only once we're really sick before somebody knows — and too many times, it's too late before anyone knows.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jim Smith, of Papillion. The Health and Human Services Committee will decide whether to advance the bill for legislative debate.
"Generally, I'm not one who supports government mandates, such as this," Smith said. "But after studying this issue and visiting with professionals and families impacted by (the disease), I became convinced that requiring screening is the right thing for us as a state to do."
Dr. Robert Spicer, the chief cardiologist at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, told lawmakers that that the heart condition is the most common birth defect in newborns. It also can lead to cardiogenic shock and death if undetected.