Test for newborns inspired by local boy

Test for newborns inspired by local boy
The Peltier family, dad DJ, mom Casey, and boys Wyatt and Caleb stroll in the March of Dimes Walk. The Peltiers vowed to help raise awareness about the special medical needs of infants after their son Caleb battled with a congenital heart defect. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Two-and-a-half-year-old Caleb Peltier of Vista has already made a big impact on the world around him. 

Tri-City Medical Center developed and named its emergency room response code for newborns after him and Caleb’s parents were among the speakers who addressed legislators and helped pass Assembly Bill 1731 that requires all California hospitals to provide pulse oximetry tests for newborns.

Caleb’s recovery from a congenital heart defect as an infant has inspired many people around him to speak up on behalf of newborns’ medical needs.

Caleb’s illness was unexpected. His mom Casey Peltier said she had a full-term normal pregnancy, but when she arrived home with 3-day-old Caleb she knew something was wrong.

“I noticed he was not eating well and was cranky,” Peltier said.

She brought him in for a checkup with the family pediatrician. By the time the family reached the doctor’s office Caleb was having difficulty breathing.

The pediatrician misdiagnosed the illness as meningitis and sent Caleb to Tri-City emergency room.

Tri-City neonatologist and pediatric cardiologist Dr. Hamid Movahhedian and NICU manager and registered nurse Nancy Myers were on the emergency team that saw Caleb. Movahhedian accurately diagnosed Caleb with congenital heart defect.

By this time things were critical.

“His organs were shutting down,” Peltier said. “His blood and gases were off the chart.”

Caleb was resuscitated and sent by Life Flight helicopter to Rady Children’s Hospital.

He had open-heart surgery, followed by a second open-heart surgery before his 2nd birthday.

Peltier said she hopes no other family will have to go through what her family did. She and her husband DJ Peltier vowed to help in any way they could to raise awareness about the special medical needs of infants.

“It was our worst nightmare,” Peltier said.

“That day in the ER saved his life,” she added. “We were so lucky and so blessed.”

The Peltiers teamed up with Tri-City Medical Center to brand the Code Caleb emergency room response code for infants under 60 days old.

When infants in need of resuscitation arrive a neonatologist, neonatal nurse and respiratory therapist are immediately paged to respond.

“When a baby is sick time is of the essence,” Myers said. “They get sick quickly and need to be responded to at a much more rapid pace.”

“It is essential that a consistent, well-accepted process for responding to them be in place when they do occur,” she added.

The code was launched in April 2012. There have been nine calls for Code Caleb in the first year.

Tri-City Medical Center is sharing Code Caleb with other hospitals to raise awareness, standardize the practice, and help improve the odds of survival for infants.

The Peltiers also worked with Tri-City Medical Center, the March of Dimes and former Assemblyman Marty Block to successfully lobby for AB 1731, that requires pulse oximetry tests for the identification of critical congenital heart disease in newborns be given at all California hospitals. The cost of the test is $3.

“The idea is to save babies like Caleb,” Myers said.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1731 in September 2012, a few days before Caleb’s second birthday. The screening will be in effect statewide July 1.

The Peltiers continue to speak at events and share their experience. On April 13 they served as the host family for the March of Dimes fundraiser walk in Oceanside. About 300 supporters participated in the walk, including 10 News anchors Kimberly Hunt and Claudia Llausas.

Today Caleb’s mom describes him a normal 2 year old.

“He plays, he laughs, he says his ABCs, he sings — it’s all any parent wants,” Peltier said.


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