Panthers tight end on a mission to help children - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Panthers tight end on a mission to help children

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen is in his off season but that doesn't mean he's not working.

The tight end is heading to Raleigh to meet with state legislators to convince them that pulse oximeter screening, which measures the level of oxygen saturation in the blood and indicates how well the heart is functioning, should be mandatory for all newborns. 

While his wife was in her 18th week of pregnancy, she and Olsen found out that one of their unborn twin had a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. T. J. Olsen is now recovering.

Doctors believe pulse oximetry screening – combined with other screenings – can help detect serious heart defects in infants.  The American Heart Association says not all hospitals and birth centers do the screenings. So Greg Olsen has joined the cause to make it mandatory.

"If it's a mandatory thing, a lot of people would just do it" says Tammy Widenhouse, whose son, Stephen was born 18 years ago with the same congestive heart defect as the Olsen's son. "What I know now I would have done it just because the more information you have you can deal with it."

Widenhouse says she didn't know her baby had a bad heart until after he was born and became sick. The newborn had a heart transplant in 1994. Today, 18 years later, Stephen is living a normal life. He and his mother work with Lifeshare of the Carolinas {www.lifesharecarolinas.org} to help organ donors.

Tammy Widenhouse says the pulse oximeter screening would be helpful.

"My personal decision - yes. It doesn't hurt anything. It can only help" says Tammy Widenhouse.

Olsen and members of The American Heart Association will deliver teddy bears cards to lawmakers on Tuesday, then talk about the need for the mandatory screening.

The American Heart Association says thousands of children are born with life threatening heart defects. Pulse oximeter screening, if lawmakers determine should be added to the panel of tests conducted on babies, would be done before newborns are discharged.

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