Lab technicians who braved blizzard to fetch newborns' blood tests hailed as heroes

Dylan Stableford

Massachusetts lab technicians who drove through a blizzard to fetch samples of newborn babies' blood for analysis are being hailed as heroes by the family of one sick baby.

Charlene Salvi’s baby, Juliana, was born in January with a severe milk allergy called galactosemia, Boston’s WCVB-TV reports. Juliana was screened for the rare genetic disorder at the hospital, but test results had yet to come in when her parents brought her home, and Juliana soon became ill.

“Unknowingly, we were feeding her milk, because she’s a baby,” Charlene Salvi told WCVB-TV. “Basically, it was poisoning her.”

According to the report, UPS had postponed deliveries due to the snow, so Melody Rush and other technicians with the New England Newborn Screening Program, drove through the blizzard to fetch newborns' blood for testing and analysis.

Mike Salvi said the couple had been home for just a few hours when they got the call from the lab informing them of Juliana’s positive test, and they rushed her back to the hospital for treatment.

“We’re just so grateful to, one, newborn screening and, two, that staff that took it upon themselves because they know the urgency of getting back those labs,” Charlene Salvi said.

Juliana, now 8 weeks old, is doing well, her parents said.

Rush and other technicians visited 25 local hospitals to pick up the newborn specimens.

According to the UMass Medical School, its screening program, which began in 1997, performs metabolic and genetic screening for nearly every one of the approximately 75,000 babies born in the state annually.

“We all worked together,” Rush said. “It was a nice feeling knowing it made a difference in that case.”

It wasn’t the only story of hospital heroism to emerge from the series of blizzards that battered Massachusetts this winter.

In January, a Worcester woman gave birth to twins during a massive snowstorm that dumped nearly three feet of snow across New England. An ambulance crew plucked the woman, Patricia Strickland, from her home just after the roads in Massachusetts were ordered closed.

“All the snow gets plowed to my front door, so to get me out there, we were slipping on ice,” Strickland told WCVB-TV. “One of the paramedic guys fell. It was crazy.”

As soon as she got into the ambulance, her water broke, and she gave birth to the first baby in the ambulance.

“Like a minute later, I had another big, sudden urge to push, and my son was, like, halfway out of me,” said Strickland, who who was 35 weeks pregnant. “That was so crazy, because I just reached down, and I could feel him there. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, my baby’s here!’”

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