Valley hospitals aim for 100 percent of newborns to be screened

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- September is newborn screening awareness month and Valley hospitals are working toward getting 100 percent of babies tested.

Before a baby can be brought home from a hospital the child has already had a detailed health test, even before the parents know about it.

Just after Eleazar Sanchez was born his health test revealed a serious problem with his thyroid. Isabel Mora of Madera, Eleazar's mother, was told by her nurse at Kaiser Permanente Fresno that he needs more testing. "She told me to run down to the lab and get lab work and we're going to start him on the medication."

Doctors told Isabel, her son was born with an inactive thyroid that was not producing two hormones vital to development. Eleazar's newborn screening test detected the deficiency before it could affect his body and brain functions.

"I'm really grateful. If it wasn't for that -- if it wasn't for the doctors here -- he would have been a completely different child at his age right now."

Registered nurse Jennifer Wong, with Kaiser's newborn screening program says all babies get the screening, unless a parent declines the test.

"All newborns in the whole nation get it, about 98 percent. Some families do opt out depending on religious reasons. We go through proper documentation, we go through the risks of not being able to get the test," said Wong.

The test takes just minutes and starts with a warmer on the baby's heel to circulate the blood. Then a small poke with a lancet needle draws blood from the heel, which is put on a screening card and sent to a lab. It's analyzed for 80 different genetic disorders.

The newborn screening test is given no sooner than 12 hours after birth but no later than 6 days old as some genetic disorders can develop within 24 hours.

Isabel is thankful for the quick results of Eleazar's test. Medication now regulates the hormones his body doesn't make, but that doesn't slow him down for a moment.

"He's perfect. A little too perfect. He's really active, loves to play, he likes to interact with people. He's doing really well," said Mora.

Many of the disorders, detected by the newborn screening test, don't have visible symptoms. Some of the conditions the test can reveal include sickle-cell anemia, hypo-thyroidism, heart defects and cystic fibrosis.
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