Newborn Denied Health Insurance Coverage Days After Life-Saving Heart Surgery

Newborn was denied health insurance coverage days after life-saving surgery.

ByABC News
March 27, 2010, 11:32 AM

March 27, 2010— -- Houston Tracy, a 12-day-old boy, has already survived a rare birth defect, a feeding tube and open heart surgery. Now his family is waiting to see how the battle with an insurance company will fare.

Last week, Houston's parents found out that the term "pre-existing condition" can apply the moment someone is born.

"When he came out, he made one little cry and he didn't really cry much," said Houston's father, Doug Tracy, 39, of Crowley, Texas.

Tracy cut the umbilical cord and watched the hospital staff clean his son. But before his wife Kim Tracy, 36, could touch their son doctors got worried. "We could tell there was something wrong by the way they [the doctors] were acting," Doug Tracy said.

Houston's skin wasn't turning a shade of pink like most newborns because, somehow, his blood wasn't getting enough oxygen. Doctors rushed Houston, with Tracy riding by his side, in an ambulance to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Within hours the Tracy family would learn their son was born with a heart condition called d-transposition of the great arteries, meaning the aorta and pulmonary artery are transposed where they should meet the heart. Doctors wanted to operate within days to save his life.

"In Houston's case he would not have survived had he not gotten the care," said Dr. Steve Muyskens, pediatric cardiologist at Cook Children's Medical Center, who treated Houston. "Most children with this [would] have a demise within days to months in life."

Muyskens explained that with the aorta and pulmonary artery switched the system creates two separate pools of blood -- a small amount that travels from the heart to the lungs and back to the heart and another pool of blood that travels from the body to the heart and back out without ever reaching the lungs for oxygen.

"The red blood just circles on one side and blue blood circles on the other," Muyskens said. All of Houston's organs, including his heart, would soon die without red blood.

Even if doctors could stabilize a child with Houston's heart condition they would only have a short window to operate.