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By The Tribune-Review

Published: Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

For the second time, I was privileged to participate in the American Heart Association (AHA) Advocacy Day in Harrisburg. This event kicks off Heart Month and helps to raise awareness about crucial heart-related issues.

Heart disease and stroke weren't on my radar until I had a stroke at age 34. Getting involved as a volunteer with AHA has been empowering and enlightening.

Our main goal for this year was to find a bill sponsor to mandate pulse oximetry screening to identify Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD), the leading cause (24 percent) of birth-defect-related deaths. Pulse oximetry screening is a simple, low-cost, noninvasive test that helps identify newborns at risk for heart defects, with a 90-percent success rate for doing so. Legislation requiring pulse oximetry screening will guarantee that all newborns receive this test!

It is estimated that 85 percent of newborns who undergo surgery for CCHD will reach adulthood. A stroke survivor who accompanied me on this trip spoke about its importance. At age 29, she suffered a stroke during pregnancy due to a clot resulting from a heart defect. If this test had been available when she was an infant, her heart would have been repaired and this stroke could have been prevented.

Her children were not screened for CCHD despite their mother's condition: This is incomprehensible! If you would like to learn more or join me as an AHA volunteer, visit heart.org.

L.A. Weiss

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