New Law Helps Diagnose Deadly Heart Defects In Babies

Thousands of parents in the U.S. take their newborn babies home every year thinking they're perfectly healthy.

However, days later they find out their baby has a hidden, undiagnosed heart defect that could be deadly. It was just five years ago when Jody Gregory brought his second son Luke home as a newborn.

"He ate very well, he was gaining weight and he was kind of a little chubby baby," said Gregory.

However, Gregory said, out of nowhere nine days after Luke was born his health took an unexpected turn.

"My wife, Joanne actually noticed his breathing was very rapid and so looking at him I knew something wasn't right, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was," said the father.

He immediately took Luke to the hospital where doctors determined he had a congenital heart disease. It basically meant his vital organs weren't getting enough oxygen.

"These cyanotic or lack of oxygen heart diseases are actually often times not evident for the first three or four days of life and sometimes it's not even evident for the first two weeks of life," said Kenneth Sultemeier, a pediatrician.

Doctors told Gregory heart surgery would be the only option to save his son's life. Gregory said, nothing could've prepared him for that moment.

"They actually left his chest open with a bandage over it so if they had to get to him quickly because of any complications they could. That was definitely hard to see your child hooked up to all these machines," said Gregory.

A new Texas law will help diagnose congenital heart diseases sooner. Now hospitals have to screen newborns for these defects before they're discharged. Sultemeier said, the screening is inexpensive and non-invasive.

"It simply monitors your oxygen saturation. It's a very simple device. It takes basically putting it on a child's finger and measuring. The whole screening takes less than a minute," said the pediatrician.

Thankfully Luke's heart is relatively healthy now. It only impedes him from taking part in extreme physical activities.

Tanya De Jesus, Newschannel 6