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A Personal Note
Thu, 14 Feb 2013

Pulse ox bill will save babies’ lives
So much of what happens in the Legislature has winners and losers. We have to constantly weigh a decision based on how it affects one group or another.
That’s why I am so happy to sponsor a bill this year that has only winners, and those winners will be the tiniest members of our state – newborn babies.
House Bill 1347 passed the Public Health Committee on Tuesday, and it will be going to the full house very soon.
This bill would mandate pulse oximetry testing for every newborn in the state before leaving the hospital. This non-invasive test is simply a little band around the baby’s hand or foot that determines the oxygen level in the blood. Most of us, when we’ve gone to the doctor, have had a little clip put on our finger. This test for babies is the exact same thing. If a newborn’s oxygen is low, that could signal a heart defect.
Like many of you, I assumed that this test was routinely done, but when I talked to the American Heart Association and several parents of children born with heart defects, I found out that this is not a routine screening.
We should not be sending families home thinking their child is healthy only to find out months later that the child is in heart failure and needs emergency surgery. The sooner a child is diagnosed, the sooner and more effective the treatment can be.
That is what happened to Fayelen Brown, a 2-year-old who lives in Skiatook with her mother, Ashley. She went home from the hospital seemingly healthy, but her mom noticed that her hands and feet were blue and cold, that her abdomen would cave in when she breathed, and that she had trouble eating.
These symptoms didn’t get a doctor’s attention until he could actually hear a heart murmur. This particular heart defect is rare, and by the time a heart murmur can be detected, it’s usually too late to save the child.
Luckily, Fayelen had emergency surgery in Dallas and is now doing fine.
But other families have not been so fortunate. There were also families at the Capitol on Tuesday who had lost their babies, and those families now have made it their mission to get pulse oximetry screenings for all newborns so that no one else goes through what they did.
I am very excited to be working with the American Heart Association on HB 1347, and I know that it will save many lives.