A Safer Future for Newborns

Approximately 1 in 5,600 newborns suffers from a metabolic disorder — a problem with the body’s chemistry. Often the problem is not diagnosed until a child is sick or dies. Now a simple and inexpensive test for newborns may detect such disorders, saving children’s lives.

Robert Burke says, “[Bryce] had been a perfectly healthy baby boy until he was 19 months old.”

That’s when Robert and his wife, Ollie, learned the truth about their son.

“One morning he just didn’t wake up and basically was in a coma,” explains Robert.

Doctors diagnosed Bryce with the metabolic disease M-CAD. His body could not break down fatty acids into the sugar he needed. Now he’s 4 years old. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t walk, and he is fed through a small G-tube in his stomach.

Charles Roe, M.D., a pediatrician at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, says, “[Metabolic disorders] are smoking guns, and most people don’t really realize that.”

Dr. Roe believes Bryce’s brain damage could have been prevented with a series of simple tests for metabolic diseases at birth. With a test kit, technicians screen for more than 30 different disorders in about 2 minutes. The results are then passed on to the baby’s doctor.

Dr. Roe says in many cases metabolic disorders can be controlled through a special diet or simply by taking vitamins.

Robert says, “There are a lot of babies out there today where the parents are looking at them thinking, ‘I have a perfectly healthy son or perfectly healthy daughter,’ and they really have a time bomb that could explode at any time.”

The Burkes learned the hard way that a child’s health is essentially in the parent’s hands. Baylor Medical Center is the only center in the United States that has these test kits.

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