This week (7-14th Feb 2013) is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. As I have previously mentioned, our baby boy was born with a heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries. This means that the two major vessels that carry blood from the heart were switched round the wrong way, causing decreased oxygen in the blood. Life saving heart surgery is the only treatment for the condition, without it, life expectancy is a couple of months at most.
There is no certain cause for the condition, our consultant explains it was simply ‘bad luck’. However, we were very lucky that it was picked up at all. Many cases of TGA are picked up antenatally in the 20 week scan, if not, they are picked up within hours or a few days after birth. We were very unusual in that our baby boy made it to the ripe old age of 11 days before anyone noticed anything untoward – his symptoms simply were not as obvious as they are in some babies. I realise now what a tough cookie he is, he really was a little time bomb during those 11 days and we are eternally grateful that his condition was spotted before it was too late.
This could have so easily been remedied for us and thousands of other families with a newborn screening test using a pulse oximeter , a simple, painless sensor usually placed on finger or toe that measures blood oxygen levels. If carried out alongside the other standard newborn checks, a pulse oximeter test would pick up 75% of congenital heart defects, simply put – its a cheap, effective way to save babies lives.
The following e-petition is asking the Department of Health to roll out this test for all babies born in the UK, increasing the early detection of CHDs. I have signed, perhaps you can too?