Suzie1 editSuzie Chase Brown’s family has had a long history of heart disease. The mother was diagnosed with congenital heart disease as a child. And in 2008, her daughter, Maggie Brown, was born with a congenital heart defect.

Ten months after Maggie, 5, had successful open-heart surgery to repair her heart defect, she and her mom became American Heart Association volunteers. They spoke at the 2011 American Heart Association Go Red for Women Summit in Austin to share their story and emphasize the importance of a screening technique called pulse oximetry, or pulse ox.

“I held Maggie up to the microphone and she said ‘I hope everyone here has a healthy heart,” Suzie recalled. “People immediately started filling out pledge cards to donate money to the great efforts made by the American Heart Association.”

Their shared belief in the importance of pulse ox took them all the way to the Texas capitol in Austin, where the mother and daughter recently testified before the State Health Services Council. Afterward, the council unanimously voted to require all Texas newborns get pulse ox screenings before leaving the hospital or birthing center. The rule takes effect on Thursday.

“Maggie and I are so grateful to be able to encourage lawmakers to allocate funds for life-saving research and efforts,” Suzie said. “Every baby born in Texas will now be screened for life-threatening heart conditions. For the longest time, only babies born to parents with congenital heart defects were screened.”

Congenital heart defects are the No. 1 killer of infants with birth defects. The American Heart Association advocates for effective screening for heart defects in newborns before they are discharged from a hospital or birthing center.

The non-invasive screening test helps identify newborns at risk for heart defects by placing sensors on a baby’s hand and
foot to check blood oxygen levels. If their levels are too low, physicians can conduct additional testing to discover heart defects that otherwise might have gone undetected.  In fact, 90 percent of these life-threatening heart defects would be discovered, according to the American Heart Association

Texas joins over 30 states including New Jersey, Maryland, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia and New Mexico in passing laws requiring pulse ox screenings in newborns.

“Thousands of babies born around the world will never reach their first birthday because of their congenital heart defects,” Suzie said. “When the congenital heart defects are identified, the babies have a greater chance of living a long and healthy life.”

suzie 2 edit 2

Photos courtesy of Suzie Chase Brown.