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Parents encourage test that saves newborns' lives

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Albany/HV: Parents encourage test that saves newborns' lives
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If you're pregnant or have a newborn and have never heard of a pulse oximetry test, you're not alone. But it is a test that could save your baby's life. It tests oxygen levels and can tell if your baby has a heart defect. Congenital heart disease affects one in 100 babies. Our Katie Gibas tells us about one family who says this test is the reason, their baby made it to his first birthday.

NEW YORK -- Jacob Thomas looks and acts like any other healthy, active one-year-old. He's come a long way in the last 12 months. Three days after Jacob was born, his family was getting packed up to take him home from the hospital when a nurse told them Jacob was turning blue.

"They never detected anything on ultrasounds, so then, when they tell you something there's something wrong with him, you're like, 'Is this real? Is this really happening?' It was just a lot to take in. I just remember going to sleep and crying and waking up and crying and I just cried for five days straight," said Jacob's mother, Kelsey Thomas.

When he started to turn blue, nurses did a pulse oximetery test, which told them Jacob's oxygen levels were dangerously low. After another test, doctors determined Jacob had congenital heart defect. Extra tissue on one of his values was diverting oxygen-poor blood away from his lungs and sending it out to his body. When he was just eight days old, Jacob had open heart surgery and the defect was fixed.

"Now, looking back on it, we're so blessed, and we're so lucky that this was caught because there are so many parents that it's not even checked and then they go home and their babies go to sleep, and they pass away in their sleep," said Thomas.

The Thomas family says the pulse oximetry test saved Jacob's life. That's why they were in Albany last week, lobbying legislators to make a law to require hospitals to do a pulse oximetry test before a baby is discharged.

"It's inexpensive. It's part of the billing procedure under newborn care. It's not an added expense. It's bundled. It's the simplest thing you can do. You put a little cuff on their finger, it reads in about 10 seconds and it's done. So many babies are dying when it could be prevented. It's so simple. It's beyond me that it even has to be argued. It should just be done," said Thomas.

The Thomas family says they're encouraged by the response from lawmakers. Right now, there are versions of the bill in both the Senate and Assembly health committees. They have not been added to their either committee's agenda.

Many hospitals already perform the pulse oximetry test as a requirement before discharging a newborn. But it's not a uniform standard.

Advocates say they've been calling and sending letters to New York legislators to get the bill on the agenda.

Right now, 11 states have laws on the books requiring pulse oximetry testing before a baby is discharged from the hospital.

If you'd like to follow the progress of the bill, it is A2316 in the Assembly and S270 in the Senate.

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