Gov. Scott Walker signs newborn screening bill into law

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Governor Scott Walker on Monday, March 3rd signed legislation relating to updating and expanding testing of newborn babies for congenital and metabolic diseases.

Senate Bill 523 allows Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services to add or update requirements for newborn testing that have been the most effective for diagnosing congenital and metabolic diseases.

“This is a potentially life-saving measure for our newborns. All babies deserve the best chance at a happy, healthy life.  When a simple test can lead to early detection of a critical disease, making sure our newborns get that screening is the right thing to do," Gov. Scott Walker said.

This past July, Tony Brodzeller and his wife, April were in the hospital with their newborn daughter, Sadie.

"For any family that hasn`t spent time in a NICU or a cardiac ICU with an infant or any kid, any parent will tell you it`s scary -- and people, as hard as they try, don`t really understand what it`s like to see your daughter with an open chest cavity and facing open heart surgery," Tony Brodzeller said.

"About 30 minutes after her birth, a nurse noticed that she looked a little blue. Her color was off. So she actually did the pulse oximetry test, and Sadie's oxygen level was really low -- and that's how we had discovered that she had a heart defect," April Brodzeller said.

The pulse oximetry test, which can detect certain critical, congenital heart defects, is likely to be the first test reviewed under this bill.  The non-invasive test measures oxygen saturation in the blood using a sensor.  Early detection of congenital heart defects leads to earlier treatment, which can be life-saving for a newborn.

The newborn screening bill -- now law, allows the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to update newborn testing requirements. That way, as technologies advance, if there's a test it thinks should be required, it can work to make it mandatory.

"Now this will give us the chance -- certainly empowers the state Department of Health Services to go out and make sure the overall screening process for newborns, this test will be included," Gov. Walker said.

Like the Brodzellers, Lyann Buenafranco's life would be much different without the pulse oximetry test.

"If they wouldn't have pulse-oxed him, Oliver wouldn't be with us today. I`m really hoping there`s not going to be a parent ever who puts their child to bed only to find out that their child passed in their sleep because of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect," Buenafranco said.

The American Heart Association, March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, UW Health, Medical College of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Hospital Association, and other infant health advocates in Wisconsin support the bill.

Governor Walker thanked the authors of the bill, Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) for their work.  The bill passed on a voice vote with bipartisan support.

Gov. Walker says he is hoping to get this law into effect quickly -- and the American Heart Association is working with the Department of Health Services to help make that happen.