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Sunday, November 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Washington newborns will be screened for heart defects under new law

Gov. Jay Inslee offers an official “signing pen” to Christian Popp, of Whidbey Island, before signing a bill requiring hospitals to improve screening for congenital heart defects in newborns. Behind Christian is his mother Kelsey Popp and his brother Caleb. At left is Aimee Lybbert, holding her son Christian, who was also born with a congenital heart defect. (Jim Camden)
Gov. Jay Inslee offers an official “signing pen” to Christian Popp, of Whidbey Island, before signing a bill requiring hospitals to improve screening for congenital heart defects in newborns. Behind Christian is his mother Kelsey Popp and his brother Caleb. At left is Aimee Lybbert, holding her son Christian, who was also born with a congenital heart defect. (Jim Camden)

OLYMPIA – Christian Lybbert was born with only two chambers in his heart, rather than the normal four, but his parents didn’t know that when they brought him home from the hospital in Yakima.

They suspected something was wrong, but didn’t find out what it was until about two weeks later when he had his normal two-week checkup. A fairly simple test at the pediatrician’s office revealed his oxygen levels were low because his heart wasn’t working properly. More extensive tests showed why, revealing several serious problems brought on by the congenital heart defect that was causing his lungs to fill with fluid.

“He was drowning in his lungs,” said his mother, Aimee Lybbert. The infant was rushed to Seattle Children’s Hospital and underwent the first of several surgeries. Now 2, Christian has more medical procedures ahead but is getting stronger.

On Tuesday, he accompanied his mother to Olympia and gave Gov. Jay Inslee a high-five after the governor signed a bill requiring all Washington hospitals to administer tests for critical congenital heart defects, or CCHD, on all newborns before they leave the hospital. In his stroller was a portable pulse oximetry monitoring machine the Lybberts use to test Christian’s oxygen levels by placing an index finger in the small device for a quick reading.

“It takes a few minutes to do it,” Aimee Lybbert said. “It would have told us right away something was wrong.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, passed the House and Senate unanimously. It requires that hospitals administer a test for CCHD with a similar device for all newborns.

“Early detection and intervention is critical for a good health outcome for these infants,” Riccelli said. The condition affects about 1 in 100 infants, he said.

Midwives or other health care providers who attend births at home or outside a hospital will also have to administer the test or refer the family to a health care provider who can do it within two days.

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