Mother says jaundice test could have saved child from brain dama - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Mother says jaundice test could have saved child from brain damage

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

A Billings family has a story to tell about how a very common condition in newborns had a very uncommon lasting impact on their little one.

Kara Smalls is a bright 3-year-old girl who has a rare form of brain damage known as kernicterus. It's the result of untreated jaundice at birth that deposited high levels of a substance called bilirubin into her brain. Kara's cognitive function is not impaired. She can think and feel like a normal child, but she can no longer control her physical movements. 

Candice Smalls, Kara's mom, tells us for the rest of Kara's life, she will never be able to walk, talk, or take care of herself. She will likely be bound to adaptive walking aids and require 24-hour care and intensive medical treatment for the remainder of her life.

In medical circles, kernicterus is known as a "never event", meaning it should never happen. That's because the condition is very easily preventable. About 60% percent of babies are born with jaundice, which results in a yellow tint in a child's skin and the whites of their eyes. Usually, the condition resolves itself or can be treated by placing the baby under ultra-violet light. Kara Smalls had jaundice, but she was sent home. Without treatment, bilirubin continued to build in her blood stream until it broke the barrier of her brain and stained the area that controls her physical movements.

Now Candice wants to use her story to help other families. She says while there's nothing she can do to help Kara regain her normal function, she wants to make sure no mother ever has to experience what she went through.

If your baby is born with jaundice, ask your doctor if a bilirubin test was performed and what the results were. Candice says parents should "know your number."

For more information on kernicterus and the families who live with it, visit https://pic-k.org/

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