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New Law Screens Newborns for Heart Defect Tri-City Joins Peltier Family in Celebrating

New Law Screens Newborns for Heart Defect Tri-City Joins Peltier Family in Celebrating

On Sept. 21, 2010, Casey Peltier walked into the emergency room at Tri-City Medical Center with her 3-day-old son, Caleb, who was in shock and barely breathing. Dr. Gene Ma, head of the ER at the time, quickly paged Dr. Hamid Movahhedian, the hospital’s neonatologist and pediatric cardiologist.

Dr. Movahhedian, working with Nancy Myers, RN, manager of Tri-City’s neonatal intensive care unit, and other staff, diagnosed young Caleb with critical congenital heart disease, a potentially fatal condition that often is left undetected. Caleb was stabilized and transferred to Rady Children’s Hospital for surgery.

A simple, inexpensive test to measure oxygen levels – called a pulse oximetry screening – would have diagnosed Caleb’s illness before he was discharged from the hospital and sent home, seemingly healthy. Voluntary at the time the Peltiers’ son was born, the test will now become routine thanks to legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Marty Block and signed into law over the weekend by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“We are so pleased the governor signed this legislation and families will now have this simple test to guard against devastating heart problems,” said Larry B. Anderson, chief executive officer at Tri-City Medical Center and president of the San Diego-Imperial Chapter of the March of Dimes. “The Peltier family worked hard to see this bill enacted and we applaud their courage.”

Assembly Bill 1731 requires all California hospitals to use this test to screen newborns for critical congenital heart disease. Tri-City Medical Center staff joined the Peltier family in Sacramento to champion the legislation, as did the March of Dimes and American Heart Association.

On Monday, the day before Caleb’s second birthday, the Peltier family celebrated the new law with a party at Balboa Park, joined by those who also had worked so hard to prevent other families from suffering as the Peltiers had.

“I am so happy and excited” the governor signed the bill, said Dr. Movahhedian, “so other babies do not to go through what Caleb and his family went through.” He said he hoped other states would follow California’s lead and enact similar legislation.

The Tri-City Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit:

  • Opened in 1986
  • Cares for 500 to 600 premature infants each year
  • Operates a 20-bed nursery, the largest in North County
  • Is the only Level III NICU in North County, providing the highest level of neonatal care and most advanced technology available in the region
  • Partners with UC San Diego neonatologists via the county’s only telemedicine program

Caleb’s case also prompted Tri-City Medical Center to formalize a process that would ensure all babies get the immediate care they need when they come into Tri-City’s Emergency Department. The hospital instituted Code Caleb, which sounds an alarm for any baby under 60 days old. The hospital already has a Code Pink for children under 14 who are brought into the emergency room with life-threatening conditions. Six Code Calebs have been called since the new process was instituted in March.