Greg Olsen uses off-season to improve NC medical law

CHARLOTTE—It is the off-season for Carolina Panther Greg Olsen, but he is still right in the middle of an off the field challenge to change state law.

Last year, Olsen's son was born with a heart defect and Olsen used his son's story to promote more comprehensive heart testing in all North Carolina hospitals.

TJ was born last year with a congenital heart defect, a condition determined before he was born.

"As difficult as it was, we were able to explore different options and learn more about the condition," said Olsen.

But not every parent is so lucky to have that knowledge before birth, and not every newborn in North Carolina has their heart thoroughly tested.

"A couple days of life and their lungs now start mixing the oxygen with the blood is when the problem arises,” said Olsen.

That is why Olsen and his wife Kara are fighting to change NC law and have pulse oximetry screening, which checks a heart's function, be a mandatory test before newborns are released from the hospital.

"We're not talking drawing blood, we're not talking lab results, machines, we're talking a little box that you hit a button,” said Olsen.

Tuesday, Olsen met with the state's Health and Human Services Committee in Raleigh to lobby for the change. The proposal passed committee and is soon set for a House vote.

"I think it felt like a little minor victory, the first step to something that we feel is very important [something that we think will help so many kids in the North Carolina area]," said Olsen.

Olsen hopes the measure will ensure more babies like TJ have their first days of life filled with happy, healthy heartbeats. According to the March of Dimes, about one in every 125 infants are born with heart defects each year. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services also recently recommended the Pulse Oximetry Screening be part of tests for all newborns.

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