Friday, May 17, 2013

Big impact for little hearts

Recently, I read about two Texas Moms who are campaigning for a test to be performed that detects heart defects in newborns. Unfortunately, the mothers lost their newborns unexpectedly – but their passion has propelled them to convince the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to officially recommend the test to states.

This year, the Texas House passed a bill requiring hospitals to test newborns, and the Senate will consider it next.

My reason for drawing attention to this is simple: my children were each diagnosed with heart murmurs during routine examinations by their pediatrician. It is a benefit to our community and our families that these tests are a standard screening at Texas Health hospitals and are done on every baby prior to discharge.

My children, thankfully, are doing fine but I feel it necessary to join the movement in making parents aware of heart issues in children. This small test can save lives, and I’m grateful that the health organization I work for is already implementing them.

With my son, the pediatrician heard it at his one-year checkup. She said it was potentially a congenital heart murmur and that he might outgrow it, but recommended we take him for an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a chest X-ray. The experience was intense, but thankfully no major issues were detected and the past four years he was monitored via physical exams. Earlier this year, we took our son to a pediatric cardiologist, who determined through an echocardiogram (ultrasound) that his heart murmur is normal (physiologic) and requires no further evaluation. You cannot imagine the relief our family felt.

Last month, at a pedi appointment to check my two-year-old daughter for an illness, the doctor said she heard a heart murmur. Immediately, I was ready to take her to get it checked out. But the doctor advised not to worry now – she’d never heard it before and they’d follow up at her three-year appointment next month. Honestly, it’s almost worth the peace of mind to go ahead and get heart-related issues checked out sooner as opposed to later. It’s truly challenging to put that at the back of my mind as she’s running on the playground or dancing in our living room.

At least it’s comforting to know there are tests available that can detect heart problems – even in newborns. Knowledge is power, after all. And if we can use it to make our children’s lives better, why wouldn’t we?

Mandy Forbus works in Brand Management and Promotions for Texas Health Resources and is a Mom of two.

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