Myra Crownover: Bill to aid newborns

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It is easy to be cynical about the legislative process. It is quite reasonable to read the news out of Austin with a sense of discontent. However, behind the scenes, most of your elected representatives are quietly working on legislation that will improve communities and lives across this state.

Divisive issues like immigration, guns and abortion get much of the coverage. However, it is the legislation that does not make the headlines that often makes the biggest difference.

Vi Nguyen-Kennedy, a nurse from Colleyville, lost her daughter to undiagnosed heart defects. Her baby girl, Taryn, was a full-term baby and appeared healthy, happy and alert. She passed her birth weight at 2 weeks and everything seemed normal.

When Taryn was 27 days old, she stopped breathing and her mother performed CPR on her until paramedics arrived. After running every test they could think of at the hospital, doctors found Taryn’s two heart defects. Unfortunately, it was too late and baby Taryn passed away at 29 days old.

Sen. Bob Deuell and I have been working with the March of Dimes and the American Heart Association on legislation to ensure that no other Texas family is forced to deal with such a terrible and preventable loss, and I am extremely pleased to report that House Bill 740 is on its way to the governor’s desk.

In 2005, the Texas Legislature expanded the scope of newborn screening in Texas from seven disorders to 29 to protect the health and welfare of Texas newborns. Since that time, more than 750 newborn Texans have been saved from debilitating disease and death as a result of newborn screening and the state of Texas has saved millions of dollars in health care costs.

The law is working well. However, medical experts in Texas and across the country now see the need for an additional screening test for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). Unfortunately, the screening for CCHD cannot be added to the approved list without legislation. That is why I filed House Bill 740.

Recent medical studies have demonstrated the need for pulse oximetry as a tool to help identify CCHD. Hospitals routinely perform hearing, sight and reflex tests at birth to assess the health of the newborn.

It only makes sense to add a non-invasive pulse oximetry screening to that list. The equipment needed for the test is already standard in most hospitals.

The results, determined within minutes, estimate the percentage of hemoglobin in blood that is saturated with oxygen and determine whether there are low levels of oxygen — a sign that there could be congenital heart disease and further testing or a physician consultation needs to take place.

Without the test, parents and children could be surprised days, months or years down the road with a fatal defect that could have been identified at birth. If they are not diagnosed soon after birth, an infant with CCHD is at great risk for death or a lifetime of complications and serious debilitating medical conditions.

More than 14,000 children are born in Texas each year with some heart condition or congenital irregularity, and cardiac defects account for nearly 30 percent of infant deaths.

Of all infant deaths caused by birth defects, nearly one in three is the result of a congenital heart defect that could be identified at birth by this simple test.

Thousands of lives will be impacted, and these Texas babies will undoubtedly go on to lead productive, healthy lives as the next generation of teachers, nurses, doctors and parents — the future of Texas.

REP. MYRA CROWNOVER has represented District 64 in the Texas House of Representatives since 2000. House District 64 includes Denton, Lake Dallas, Corinth, Shady Shores, Hickory Creek, Krum, and the northwest part of Denton County.


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