Family: November 2005 Archives

When someone has a metabolic disorder, their cells can't properly process certain building blocks of food -- a certain kind of protein, for example. Instead of being metabolized into other chemicals that are useful to the body, the substance builds up as a poison, potentially causing high blood acid levels, mental retardation, or even death. With medication and diet, a metabolic disorder can be managed and the damaging effects averted in most cases if the disorder is identified early enough.

Within the first day after a baby is born, a nurse will prick his heel, take a few drops of blood and put it on blotter paper, and send it off to a state lab to be tested for some relatively common metabolic disorders, like PKU. Every state mandates such a test. Most parents probably aren't aware it's even been done, much less why. (Here's a table in PDF format showing which states require newborn screening for which conditions.)

But there are dozens of other metabolic disorders for which screening isn't required. Oklahoma requires screening for only two of 20 "core" metabolic conditions, and only one of 25 secondary target conditions.

I know a boy who has a rare metabolic disorder that wasn't caught by the state-mandated screening. As a toddler, he could get a simple cold and wind up in the hospital with high blood acid levels and dehydration. It took a couple of years before his parents finally found a doctor who thought to check for a metabolic disorder. Today this boy is a bright, healthy, athletic teenager. Specialists were able to teach him and his parents how to control and monitor his condition with diet and medication. They could have been spared a few terrifying years if expanded metabolic screening had been available and if they'd known about it.

The March of Dimes website has information about newborn screening tests. The National Newborn Screening Research and Genetics Center has a list of commercial and non-profit labs that will screen for 30 or more additional conditions for as little as $25. You send off for the kit before the baby is due to arrive, you give it to your pediatrician, and they have the sample drawn shortly after your child is born. You drop the completed kit in the envelope with a check for processing and wait for the results.

(Before you send off for a kit, though, check with your hospital or pediatrician. They may already offer expanded newborn screening.)

I'm not a fan of state mandates, but this is such an inexpensive way to prevent serious mental and medical problems, I wish Oklahoma required expanded screening for all newborns, as many other states now do.

But don't wait for the state. If you're expecting, or know someone who is, get a kit and have the wee one screened.

Need Santa?

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Since retiring in January, my dad has been letting his beard, which is nearly all white, grow out to what is now an appropriately Santaesque length. He intends to put it to good use by making appearances around Tulsa on behalf of jolly old Saint Nick this Christmas season.


He wore a hat and a red turtleneck on Halloween and had fun inducing cognitive holiday dissonance in the neighbor children. ("Trick or treat.... Santa?!?") He now has the suit and boots, too. When shopping for the suit, one store clerk enthused, "You've already got the beard, and you won't need padding, either!" (She didn't get the sale.)

Dad is an affable, grandfatherly sort, which he comes by honestly, inasmuch as he is a grandfather of five.

He's already got one gig. We were at an event last Saturday at a major Tulsa cultural institution and he struck up a conversation with the Claus-in-residence. Dad learned that the gentleman would necessarily be away from his post the following weekend, so Dad gave him his business card, and a couple of days ago got the call to fill in on Saturday and Sunday.

If you need a right jolly old elf to grace your Tulsa-area Christmas event, give David Bates a call at 230-6258 or e-mail him at

I've added a couple of photos to the entry about Friday's lecture on the life and music of Bob Wills: my five-year-old, in her western skirt and boots, with Ray Benson and Jason Roberts of Asleep at the Wheel. She enjoyed the lecture, and that evening when we listened to my new Bob Wills CDs, she recognized the songs she had heard Ray and Jason play that morning.



Today our little chrysalis changed color from bright green to almost black, which means a newly minted monarch butterfly is about to emerge. I've set up my son's Digital Blue microscope to take a frame every 10 seconds, so that we can capture the emergence even if it happens when we're asleep.

That's the exciting news from here. That, and I am now the third member of my family to get the cold that's making the rounds.

UPDATE: Exclusive video! It's grainy, it's out of focus -- limitations of the camera -- but here is time-lapse video of the butterfly emerging from its chrysalis (5MB AVI file). The time-lapse was a frame every 10 seconds; the video plays back at 15 frames per second, so we slowed time down by a factor of 150. If I had to do it again, I'd use a much smaller delta t. The actual emergence took about five minutes -- only about 2 seconds of the time-lapse video.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from November 2005.

Family: October 2005 is the previous archive.

Family: December 2005 is the next archive.

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