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    March of Dimes urges legislators to help in the fight against the #1 birth defect in California

    Sara Hyde-Lampa, State Director of Communications, March of Dimes California Chapter, (415)217-6371, shyde-lampa@marchofdimes.com

    March of Dimes volunteers descend on the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to vote yes on AB 1731

    Sacramento, CA, May 22, 2012 —

    Underneath his shirt, little Connor Rothgery’s chest is littered with scars. The seemingly healthy five-month-old has undergone more medical treatments than have many adults, and will endure years of surgeries, medications and interventions – all before adolescence – to help keep his tiny heart beating. Connor was born with critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) - a condition that takes the lives of 30 babies in California each year.

    Connor’s family, alongside other families impacted by CCHD, joined March of Dimes at the California State Capitol today for March of Dimes Capitol Day, an event that brings together nearly 100 March of Dimes volunteers and staff from throughout the state to talk with legislators about important issues in maternal and child health.

    This year March of Dimes is sponsoring AB 1731, introduced by Assembly Member Marty Block, which will require all babies to be screened for CCHD using a simple test called pulse oximetry. The test can detect CCHD before a baby shows signs of the condition. The estimated time for each screening is one to five minutes and it is administered in the hospital, ideally 24 to 48 hours after birth, using equipment that is standard in most hospitals. Cost estimates for CCHD screening are $3 per infant.

    “Nothing is more important than our children’s health, and this simple test can save children’s lives and millions in health costs,” Block said. “We’re cheating our infants of the healthy futures they deserve if we forego this early warning system.”

    Heart defects are the most common birth defects in the United States, and about 4,800 (or 11.6 per 10,000) babies born every year have the life-threatening heart conditions known collectively as CCHD. Routine pulse oximetry to measure oxygen levels can successfully identify newborns with CCHD. Early detection will give doctors the chance to intervene and save babies’ lives.

    “Connor had been discharged from the hospital and we thought we were bringing home a healthy baby boy”, said mom Laura Rothgery. “It wasn’t until his fourth doctor’s visit, and at my request, that his blood oxygen levels were tested. Connor nearly died, and his late diagnosis resulted in severe trauma to his heart and lungs. Early diagnosis would have made all the difference for my son.”

    California currently screens for the other 30 conditions deemed “core conditions” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In September 2011 Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius added screening for CCHD to the nation’s recommended screening panel for states.   

    “March of Dimes has a long history of working hand in hand with the California Legislature to ensure babies born in our state have the best chance for a healthy start in life,” said March of Dimes Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee Chair Gail Margolis. “Today March of Dimes is at the Capitol with families, volunteers and health experts to educate legislators about this critical test.” 

    More information about this lifesaving test, and the long-term cost savings associated with it, can be found at: marchofdimes.com/california

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