On Thursday State Rep. Richard Smith (R-108) visited New Fairfield’s Consolidated School to learn about a student project to create heart-shaped pillows for children living with congenital heart defects. Forty 1st and 2nd grade students showed Rep. Smith the pillows they are stuffing for the patients of the pediatric cardiology department of the Children’s Health Center at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The pillows are stuffed by the students – who call themselves the “Kids Care Club” – and sewn by local volunteers who use materials that are donated or purchased at a reduced price. Rep. Smith had the opportunity to see the pillows firsthand and discuss with the students about the importance of heart health.
“I admire the hard work these students are dedicating to this important cause. This project not only brings increased awareness to congenital heart defects, but it provides comfort to the children living with this condition.” Rep. Smith said. Rep. Smith is a co-sponsor of SB 56 AAC Pulse Oximetry Screening for Newborn Infants, which would require screening to check for serious congenital heart defects before newborns leave the hospital.
“Congenital heart defects can be life-threatening and pose increasing risks to an infant’s life the longer they go undetected. The Pulse Oximetry Screening is simple, non-invasive and cost effective, but most importantly it has the potential to save countless lives. I am pleased that this bill was unanimously voted out of the Public Health Committee and look forward to further legislative consideration.” Rep. Smith said.
The test works by evaluating oxygenation levels in the newborns’ blood through an external sensing device. If the Pulse Oximetry reading shows a low oxygen level, it signals to further test the newborn to determine whether a congenital heart defect is the cause. While heart defects take many forms, the common denominator is diminished oxygenation of the infant’s vital organs.
The bill was prompted in part by Rep. Smith’s constituent Marie Hatcher of Sherman whose son, Matthew, is one of the 35,000 babies born every year with a congenital heart defect. Hatcher founded Matthew’s Heart of Hope, Inc., a nonprofit organization that raises money and awareness for pediatric congenital heart defects.