Screening Florida's Newborns

Doctors have been lobbying for the change for years, saying raising a red flag at birth can spare a child brain damage or worse.

TJ Carlton wasn't in the world for more than 24 hours before a screener came by and slipped high tech earphones onto his tiny head.

Newborns in Florida have routinely been tested for hearing loss and a handful of other genetic disorders. Now, that list has gone from five screenings to more than 30, including a check for cystic fibrosis and a host of genetic and metabolic disorders most of us have never heard of.

Dr. Todd Patterson, TMH neonatalogist, says, "There's a number of tests in the new system that are metabolic disorders and we could prevent brain damage and learning disorders just by doing something simple like changing the diet of a child if we know early enough."

TJ will soon get that traditional heel prick, and that blood sample will tell doctors whether he'll need any special treatment growing up. His parents aren't expecting any surprises, but say the sooner they know of any trouble, the better.

Wendy Carlton, mother, says, "It’s reassuring just to know if something's going on, then I know now rather than down the road when things start happening."

Tallahassee hospitals are not yet offering the expanded screenings. They'll be phased in at different hospitals from now until December so labs can gradually adjust to handling up to 2000 samples a day.