Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear earlier this month signed a bill into law that will require that all newborn babies be given what is called a pulse oximetry test — a painless, low-cost test that will catch several life-threatening congenital heart defects.
Somerset resident Kimberly Clark, mother of three, two of whom were born with serious congenital heart defects, stood by and cried as she watched Senate Bill 125 become law during the ceremonial signing on Wednesday, April 17 at Kosair Children’s Hospital.
“I felt so relieved,” said Clark. “Every child now has a chance. Could you imagine going home with your baby and think it’s healthy, and then losing your child?”
That scenario, as horrifying as it is, does exist. Clark said often times serious congenital heart defects aren’t caught until after the baby has passed away. That’s why she and several others worked in February to campaign for a new law requiring the pulse oximetry test —a test that can increase a CHD baby’s chance of survival to 85 percent, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
“A lot of people don’t realize babies can have a heart defect,” said Clark.
Clark has been in that situation before. She has two young children, Austin, 7, and Aubrey, 5.
Austin was born with a mild supravalvar pulmonary stenosis, which means one or more of the three leaflets located in the pulmonary valve of the heart that open in the direction of blood flow and close to prevent blood from flowing backward are defective or too thick, or the leaflets may not separate from each other properly. It wasn’t until Austin was nine months old when doctors discovered that he also suffered from severe supravalvar aortic stenosis — a narrowing of the aorta — which required open heart surgery. That surgery took place the day after Austin’s first birthday.