by, Elizabeth McIntire
In northern Indiana in November of 2009, Cora McCormick was born–a full term apparently normal newborn. Her parents were thrilled at the birth of their first child. Her mother had experienced a perfectly normal pregnancy, labor and delivery. Cora took well to nursing and the new family went home from the hospital 48 hours after Cora’s birth. Cora, her dad and mom Kristine spent three wonderful days together– until tragedy struck.
Kristine was nursing Cora when suddenly her baby girl turned blue/gray in her arms and stopped breathing. They rushed their newborn daughter to the hospital but nothing could be done. Cora died at five days of life. Cora’s cause of death was congenital heart disease.
Shortly after Cora died, her mother took up a crusade to make congenital heart defect screening in Indiana required as an addition to current newborn screening.
Due to Kristine’s efforts, in January 2012 “Cora’s Law” was passed by the Indiana legislature and required hospitals to screen newborns for critical congenital heart defects.
This is where I got involved. Prior to the law going into effect, perinatal providers throughout the state needed to become aware of the law and how it impacted newborn screening. I was responsible for developing an education program for these providers. As we were gearing up for implementing this law, I had the good fortune to meet Kristine McCormick, witness her advocacy for this screening and witness a mom who’s own heart was broken turn her grief into something truly amazing. I knew that if we could use Cora’s newborn picture—that of a completely healthy looking cubby cheeked baby girl, it would make an impact as we talked to physicians and nurses about the importance of the screening and new law.
Kristine gave me permission to use Cora’s picture in our educational presentations and in a postcard I helped develop with the screening algorithm on it. Fast forward to February 1st, 2012, one month to the day after Cora’s law went into effect. On that day a baby boy, Gabriel, was born in southern Indiana. He too looked perfectly normal—like Cora. However, before he went home he underwent the screening that Cora’s mom advocated for. The screen was abnormal. The staff at the hospital repeated the screening and again, he failed. With the screening algorithm at hand, they knew what to do and he was transferred to a quaternary center for management. He was diagnose with a critical heart defect and underwent emergency surgery to correct the issue. He did well postoperatively and was able to return home with his family.
Several months after surgery, Gabriel came back to Indianapolis for a routine postop checkup. It occurred to me that Kristine needed to meet Gabriel’s mom and Gabriel’s mom needed to meet Kristine. I wanted these two women to come together—both bound by motherhood, tragedy and victory. They needed to meet, to heal, hug each other, and share Cora’s baby picture, laugh and cry.
Mother to mother—each of them understanding that Cora Mae McCormick was the reason they were there, the reason Gabriel was wiggling in a blanket in Kristine’s arms. I watched as the local news channel filmed the event and next to me was one of the neonatologists who helped with the statewide teaching efforts. I leaned over and told him—“this is what it’s all about. This is why we do what we do”. It was and still is one of the most profound moments in my nursing career.
To find out more about pulse oximetry screening, visit: http://www.childrensnational.org/PulseOx/
Elizabeth McIntire, WHNP,WHNP-C, EFM-C
Elizabeth is the Director Maternity & Newborn Health at
IU Health Riley. Elizabeth started her career in obstetrical nursing and has never looked back. Besides her family, her passions are high risk obstetrics, perinatal safety, and high reliability, challenging the process and modeling the way.