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Simple Test Could Detect Infant Heart Defects

Photo, Courtesy AHA: An infant being tested with a pulse oximeter - a test which the American Heart Association says can save lives by detecting heart defects.
Photo, Courtesy AHA: An infant being tested with a pulse oximeter - a test which the American Heart Association says can save lives by detecting heart defects.
March 27, 2013

ASHIPPUN, Wis. - A simple, non-invasive test could detect possible heart defects in newborns, and a mother from Ashippun wants to make sure every child gets it.

Melanie Moody's son Aiden did not have a pulse oximetry test done when he was born five years ago. She wants every parent to know about the test.

"If we would have known about this, I would have asked for it," she said. "But at that time we did not realize that congenital heart defects were the No. 1 birth defect. We'd never heard."

A few weeks after Moody took Aiden home, she knew he was not doing well. The doctors said, "Just wait 'til his next appointment," but Moody said her intuition was telling her otherwise. Aiden was taken to an emergency room, and a few hours later he was in surgery.

"If we would have just listened to our doctors and not really did anything or waited for the next appointment, Aiden wouldn't be with us," she said. "So, we're happy we listened to ourselves, listened to our instincts, and brought him in to get the help that he needed."

According to the American Heart Association, every newborn should have a pulse oximetry test. It is pushing for such a law to be passed in Wisconsin.

Many states already have passed such laws, based on a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 85 percent of infants with critical congenital heart defects survive and thrive if the problem is diagnosed and treated early.

Moody said she's a "mom on a mission" after she and her husband endured the ordeal - which could have been prevented by a simple test.

"I really wanted this to change," she said. "I really wanted this simple, non-invasive test - the pulse oximetry test - to be done on newborns, and we're not going to rest until every newborn born in the state of Wisconsin receives this test."

As Moody learned, a newborn can appear healthy at first, only to suffer serious heart complications and require emergency care soon after. She said parents of every newborn child should ask for a pulse oximetry test between 24 and 48 hours after birth.

More information is online at heart.org/pulseoxwisconsin.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI