Moms campaign for test to detect newborn heart defects



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Posted on May 1, 2013 at 10:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 1 at 11:19 PM

COLLEYVILLE — Nothing about Taryn Kennedy's birth could have predicted what would happen next.

"It was basically a textbook pregnancy," said Vi Kennedy, her mother. "A normal, textbook pregnancy."

But when Kennedy's first child was 27 days old, she suddenly stopped breathing.

"I remember screaming to the 911 operator, 'Please, please Taryn, be OK!'"

Two days later, Taryn was dead; her heart never formed correctly.

Only after Nash Sievers stopped eating did doctors recognize he had a heart defect, as well.

"They called right back and said his heart is very enlarged," said Tracy Sievers, Nash's mother. "I remember standing outside McDonald's and crumpled to my knees."

The five-month-old boy from Plano was visiting his grandparents at the time.

"I did not make it before he died," Sievers said.

Heart problems are the most common birth defects, and a simple test called pulse oximetry might be able to predict problems.

But Texas hospitals aren't required to perform that test.

Pulse oximeters measure the amount of oxygen in blood. The readings are achieved by placing contacts on an infant's skin, either their hand or foot.

A normal reading ranges between 95 and 100. Anything below that might suggest something is wrong.

Kennedy and others started an organization callled Bless Her Heart to raise awareness of the exam.

They convinced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to officially recommend the test to states.

Then, she and Sievers got the Texas House to pass a bill requiring hospitals to test newborns.

The Senate will consider it next.

"If we can save other kids, I think it's so worth it," Sievers said.

The two moms have made this a passionate push, hoping that the brief lives of their children are not forgotten.