By: Megan Palera
Every year, more than 7,000 babies are born with critical heart disease. Many of them undetected, often times when it's too late.
An oxygen screening can help save those lives. It's simple, painless and there's an Omaha mother fighting for it after almost losing her son.
Tiffany Mytty-Klein, of Papillion, is thankful for each day she gets to spend playing games with her son. 10 years ago, Cole nearly died. He was born with a critical congenital heart defect that went undetected until he was 8 weeks old and in heart failure.
"We're in a life flight right now and will we have him at the end of all this?" Mytty-Klein said.
Here's Cole after his first open-heart surgery; the first of 3. They're surgeries Cole would have needed, but could have been done under much safer conditions had his hospital in Kansas used a pulse oximetry screening.
It's a low-cost, simple and painless test that checks for oxygen levels. 100 means the baby is breathing just fine. Below 95 could mean trouble. Heart defects can be detected in over 90% of newborns with the screening.
"There are 2,000 babies that die every year with undiagnosed critical heart disease and it can save more lives than most of the other tests that we do for the newborn screening now," St. Elizabeth's Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Ameeta Martin said.
70% of hospitals in Nebraska use the screening. But Mytty-Klein says that number needs to be higher. So she's lobbied to get legislation passed to make the screening a requirement for all Nebraska newborns.
"I have met one too many moms that they found out from a coroner that they're child had a heart defect. To me that doesn't make sense," Mytty-Klein said.
Senator Jim Smith is sponsoring the newborn screening bill. It will be introduced on the floor on Monday.