Her daughter, Taylor Lightner, seemed normal at birth but nurses at Alliance Community Hospital questioned the newborn’s oxygen level when doing the newly required test.
Taylor was sent to Akron Children’s neonatal intensive care unit where doctors confirmed a life-threatening heart defect called d-transposition of the great arteries (d-TGA).
In this condition, the normal connections allowing blood to flow from the heart to the lungs are reversed, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching the body. Untreated, the condition is usually fatal but advances in cardiac surgery have lead to favorable outcomes.
The heart doctors from Children’s told me that if she was discharged without picking this up she would have made it maybe 10 days before getting into serious trouble.”
The test that most likely saved Taylor, pulse oximetry, is a non-invasive way to detect critical congenital heart defects. It measures oxygen levels with infrared light sensors placed on the baby’s hand and foot.
The aim is to pick up 7 congenital heart problems, all of which require surgery or other intervention within a baby’s first year.
An estimated 7,200 babies are born every year in the U.S. with a critical congenital heart defect, according to the CDC.
“This practice is not new. We have been doing this for about 3 years,” said Amy Dawson, coordinator for Akron Children’s Hospital’s maternal fetal cardiology program. “But what is new is a more well-defined program. This year, we’ve noticed that we are getting more calls to the NICU for follow-up echocardiograms.”
Dr. Harriet Feick, a neonatologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, believes this test is an excellent addition to newborn screening.
“Taylor would have been sent home on regular feedings if not for the pulse oximetry screen,” Dr. Feick said.
Since the test began in October 2014, 2 other babies born in Ohio hospitals would have gone home with a life-threatening congenital heart defect if not for the new screening requirement, according to Anna Starr, manager of child and specialty health services for the Ohio Department of Health.
“As of May, 91% of Ohio hospitals are reporting data on the screening results,” Starr said. “This reporting was added to the Ohio Vital Records Electronic Birth Certificate System. “
Under the legal guidelines, babies who have 3 consecutive oxygen saturation readings below 95 percent or a single reading below 90 percent are to be referred to specialists. Taylor’s level was at 85 percent.
“I think the test is awesome. I’m so glad they have it,” Brittani said. “I would’ve taken her home and maybe lost her.”
On Taylor’s first birthday, Brittani plans to take her to Akron Children’s NICU to thank the nurses who gave her daughter such impressive care.
“I plan to visit the NICU with Taylor every year on her birthday so she will know too,” Brittani said.