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Nazareth Boy, 3, is 'Face of Hope'

Nazareth boy is among congenital heart defect survivors and their families showing support for health screening legislation.

Sam Vlasics is part of the American Heart Association’s Faces of Hope gallery. Here Dana and Paul Vlasics pose with their son Sam in Harrisburg. Credit: American Heart Association
Sam Vlasics is part of the American Heart Association’s Faces of Hope gallery. Here Dana and Paul Vlasics pose with their son Sam in Harrisburg. Credit: American Heart Association

Three-year-old Sam Vlasics of Nazareth joined his parents and other survivors of congenital heart defects this week to show support for state legislation that would require "pulse oximetry" screenings of all newborns.

At a news conference in Harrisburg, the youngster and his parents stood with Rep. Karen Boback, R–117th District, in support of House Bill 1420, which is expected to go to a committee vote in October. 

Sam was born with an interrupted aortic arch that went undetected prior to birth. However, because of a pulse oximetry test conducted in the hospital one day after he was born, he was able to receive life-saving surgery, according to a release from the American Heart Association.

He underwent his first open heart surgery at 1 week old, and his second at 4 months old. Although he may have another surgery in his future, he is "a healthy, thriving 3-year-old," the release said.

"My son is lucky to be in such good health today because we detected his heart defect so quickly," said Sam’s mother, Dana Vlasics, in the release. "We want to ensure that no parents have to watch their babies suddenly get sick, or even die, because of a heart defect that could have been detected with a simple test and treated right away."

Sam recently served as the child chair of the 2013 Lehigh Valley Heart and Stroke Walk, held on Sept. 22.

His story of survival is part of the American Heart Association’s Faces of Hope gallery that aims to raise awareness and support for the screening legislation. 

Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive test for screening infants for low blood oxygen concentration, an indicator of a congenital heart defect, according to the American Heart Association. Additional testing would then detect the specific heart defect. Many hospitals offer the screening, but it is not one of the newborn screenings required by state law. 

Boback is prime sponsor of the screening legislation in the House. 

Congenital heart defects affect about eight out of every 1,000 live births.  

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