During my first term, Mrs. Jessica Hatcher asked if I would propose legislation to study whether the State should require a simple low-cost test to detect congenital heart defects in newborn babies before they leave the hospital. (Depending on the severity, a congenital heart defect can cause brain damage, damage to vital organs and death.) Jessica’s passion stemmed from her son, Wyatt, who has a congenital heart defect. Although her son’s condition was caught in utero, Mrs. Hatcher learned that many children with similar conditions were leaving hospitals in Georgia undiagnosed. In fact, approximately 1000 Georgia babies are born each year with congenital heart defects that will not present observable symptoms until twenty-four hours or more after birth. A simple, inexpensive test called “pulse-oximetry” can identify this condition.
After researching the issue and with Jessica’s assistance, I sponsored House Bill 745 (2011-12 Session) which asked the Georgia Department of Health to form a study committee to determine whether Georgia hospitals should be required to implement pulse-oximetry testing for newborns. The Bill passed through both chambers and the Commission of the Department of Public Health appointed Jessica to the committee. After study, the committee recommended and the Department adopted rules requiring that hospitals in Georgia to perform pulse-oximetry testing on all newborns before they are released from the hospital.
This life-saving measure began with one constituent – a voter like you. It is a privilege to serve as your State Representative and make a difference for future mothers and their children across Georgia.