Our baby’s hidden heart condition was detected by test that’s only being done at one Northern Ireland hospital
A grateful mum and dad have thanked medics at Daisy Hill Hospital after a pioneering health test for newborns gave an early warning that may have saved their baby's life.
After a normal pregnancy and delivery on April 25, Katie Dinsmore and partner Alan were getting ready to take baby Daire home to her big sister Brooke when a final screening test showed she had a form of congenital heart disease.
Daisy Hill is the only hospital in Northern Ireland to use the newborn heart screening test, pulse oximetry.
Daire was rushed to Dublin to have keyhole surgery that same day at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, followed by open heart surgery 24 hours later.
Katie, from Burren outside Newry, said: "It was an absolute shock to find out that our beautiful baby, who appeared so healthy, had such a serious heart complication, but we are so lucky that the paediatric team use this test.
"We could have been away home, and who knows what could have happened her at a later stage.
"The surgery Daire had in Dublin should stand by her now. She may need further treatment in the future but at least we now are aware of the risks and can keep a close eye on her."
The paediatric team along with their maternity colleagues undertake the routine oxygen saturation test for all babies before they are discharged.
Dr Bassam Aljarad, Southern Trust associate medical director for children and young people, who introduced the screening programme, said: "Congenital heart disease (CHD) is one of the most common types of birth defect, affecting up to nine in every 1,000 babies born in the UK.
"Nearly 50% of babies born with a CHD appear healthy at first without any noticeable symptoms and may be discharged only for their health to deteriorate days or sometimes a few months later.
"More timely detection helps us to identify more babies with CHD at a much earlier stage, ensuring that we can keep them monitored and give them the treatment they need to prevent health consequences, disability or, in the worst cases, premature death.
"Along with our standard clinical examination, this additional very simple screening test, which only takes a few minutes, greatly increases the accuracy in diagnosing CHD."
Irwyn McKibbin, chairman of Heartbeat NI, the charity that funded the screening equipment, has called for pulse oximetry testing to be available in all hospitals here.
"It's vitally important that babies with a heart defect are diagnosed as soon as possible and treated as a matter of urgency," the charity chief said.
"I would like to congratulate the staff at Daisy Hill for not only undertaking what was initially a pilot study, but for persisting with it once the trial period expired.
"While CHD may only be detected in one or two babies each year through screening, the difference from screening can be life-changing.
"Without such a proactive approach by the paediatric team, the outcome for baby Daire could have been very different.
"I'm delighted for Katie and Alan that Daire is doing so well and that Heartbeat NI played a small part in this good news."
The Southern Trust is now exploring the introduction of the test to Craigavon Area Hospital.