Health Watch: Lifesaving tests for newborns

FRESNO, Calif.

Today, baby Gael is happy and healthy, but just hours after he was born his parents got devastating news.

"It was really hard to hear," Luvy Rodriquez, Gael's mom, told ABC30.

"I was just destroyed," Davis Villegas, Gael's dad, told ABC30.

Gael had a serious congenital heart defect and needed major surgery.

"It was the worst six hours I have ever been through," Davis said.

The operation was a success and Gael's parents feel lucky that a newborn screening test detected the problem before they even left the hospital.

"It can be dangerous and even life-threatening if they are sent home without being diagnosed," Gregory Perens, MD, Pediatric Cardiologist, Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, told ABC30.

Pulse oximetry takes just a few minutes and is the only screening for heart defects, but tests like this aren't mandatory everywhere. Each state screens for anywhere from four to 30 disorders.

The sickle cell screening detects the blood disorder that occurs in about one in every 500 African American births.

The infant hearing screening is performed in most, but not all states. If yours doesn't offer it, get your baby screened within three weeks of birth.

The cystic fibrosis screening can help doctors detect and treat lung and nutritional problems sooner.

Also, the toxoplasmosis test detects an infection that can invade the brain, eye, and muscle. It affects one in 1,000 babies, but less than a handful of states screen for it.

Baby Gael's parents are grateful that the newborn test picked up his problem before it was too late.

"Every day that we have him, and every month that he turns one more month we thank God that we have him," Luvy said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently called for a more standardized newborn screening program. To find out what newborn illnesses your state screens for, go to

For more information, contact:

Amy Albin
Sr. Media Relations Representative
UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations
(310) 794-8672

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