DANBURY -- Joshua Brewster, 2 days old, was a sleepy baby.
So he never even noticed as Danbury Hospital nurse Mary Visconti slipped a small monitor on his right wrist, then his left foot, to check his blood oxygen levels. He dozed contentedly through the test, which lasts five minutes, tops.
And he passed, with flying baby-skin-pink colors. The test showed that his heart was working well and he had not been born with a heart defect.
"It's great,'' said Andrea Brewster of Bethel, Joshua's mother. "And it's very easy."
"It's so simple," said Olwen Gurry, a nurse at the hospital. "So why not?"
On April 1, Danbury Hospital agreed.
It became the first hospital in the state to test every baby born there for congenital heart defects using pulse oximetry screening -- the technical name for the monitor Visconti used.
And Jan. 1, the rest of the state will follow suit. A new state law, which sailed through the General Assembly, requires every hospital in Connecticut to do the test. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed the bill, making Connecticut the fifth state in the U.S. to mandate the test.
Health legislation of any sort requires the concerted efforts of many people to be passed -- legislators, doctors and nurses, ordinary citizens.
But this bill has as its genesis the work of Marie Hatcher of Sherman.
Hatcher's 3-year-old son, Matthew, was born with a malfunctioning right ventricle. He's need three open-heart surgeries to repair it.
But many infants with congenital heart defects don't have the problem diagnosed in the hospital. Instead -- looking healthy -- they go home, only to be rushed back to the hospital when the defect manifests itself.
Maryalice Cullen, director of patient services at Danbury Hospital, said congenital heart defects are the most common congenital defects infants have, occurring in about eight of every 1,000 babies.
But nearly half of the defects aren't picked up in the hospital, Cullen said. "They can have serious problems."
And with the help of area legislators, led by state Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, the bill mandating the test was passed with little opposition.
"I didn't expect it to go as smoothly as it did," Hatcher said.
McLachlan, a fiscal conservative, acknowledged that in the past he's voted against expanding state health mandates.
But this, he said, requires a very inexpensive test, costing only a few dollars. It's non-invasive. And it saves lives.
"We didn't have a problem at all with it,'' McLachlan said.
Likewise, when Hatcher brought the issue to the fore at Danbury Hospital in December, the hospital's pediatric and cardiac teams both agreed to institute the test in advance of the state mandate.
"We're ahead of the curve,'' said Gurry, who has done independent study on congenital heart defects as part of her work toward a bachelor's degree in nursing science from Western Connecticut State University. She's also a Sherman resident and a friend of Hatcher's.
Cullen said it took the hospital about two months to get the protocols for the test in place. That's a very quick march.
"It's a very easy test to do," Cullen said. "But to get it in place, you have to change practices. You have to change protocols. You have to train everyone who gives the test, then certify that people have been trained properly.
"We have to do this for everything we do at the hospital."
Joshua will go home safe and happy to his parents, Andrea and Jeff Brewster.
Hatcher said the test is a new first line of defense to find defects, then get infants in need to the hospital neonatology unit for proper care.
"They've caught two in New Jersey since they started testing there," she said. "We will get one here. This is going to save lives."