Local Grassroots Movement Wins Fight Nationally to Change Medical Protocol
All Pregnant Women to be Tested for Group B Strep, Leading Infectious Killer of Newborns
CDC to Issue Standard of Care in Fall 2002;
Leading Medical Associations to Issue Testing Protocol in Fall 2002
VENTURA, Calif. When Shelene and Chris Keith of Ventura, California were told that the medical crisis that almost took the life of Jesse, their baby boy, might have been prevented with a $25 test during Shelene's pregnancy, they vowed to change the medical protocol that kept Shelene from being tested. Discouragingly, they were told it would take them ten years and millions of dollars.
Now, only 4.5 years later, working on a slim budget fueled by their music ministry, and the financial and personal work contributions of a small group of dedicated people, the Keith's non-profit organization, The Jesse Cause-Saving the Babies from Group B Strep, can claim a remarkable victory. The Keiths struggled to raise awareness by performing Jesse Cause music concerts, selling their three CD's at the concerts to help support the Cause, and distributing an informational pamphlet on Group B strep (GBS). They also appeared hundreds of times to women's groups and health conventions, as well as interviews with newspapers, magazines, radio and television, including a segment on "48 Hours" and CNN.
Throughout it all, the Keiths worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The goal was to reissue the 1996 Guidelines to include nationwide testing of all pregnant women for Group B strep, a bacterial killer that has a very low public awareness factor. At the urging of the Jesse Cause, the CDC called a new conference on Group B Strep and, in November 2001, held the historic meeting that included the Jesse Cause and many of the leading U.S. medical associations and experts.
On April 1st an historical event happened, the documentation for universal Group B Strep testing was submitted to the MMWR, which means GBS testing will now become standard of care during pregnancy in the United States of America. This documentation is slated for release in the Fall of 2002.
In half the time anyone said was possible, the goal of the Jesse Cause was realized. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), two of the leading U.S. medical associations providing healthcare for women and children, will follow-up with their protocol in Fall 2002. All three organizations have agreed on the same screening protocol in the laboratory, the doctor's office and the hospital, which will require every pregnant mother to be tested for GBS in weeks 35-37 of their pregnancy. If the test is positive, the infected mother will receive a simple antibiotic treatment that has proven extremely effective against GBS.
"Agreeing on the same protocol was very important to us," said Chris Keith. "With a single, uniform test in the labs, the hospitals and doctors' offices, there will be no confusion about the proper procedure. Mothers will be tested and lives will be saved, I thank God for this."
Shelene and her husband Chris Keith's battle against GBS continued even as Jesse, now four years old, endured three brain surgeries. Chris Keith, a Christian recording artist, emphasizes the fact that their son is a success story. "Jesse is a happy child, and he is miraculously developmentally sound," he says. "Other children who survive GBS often develop hearing loss, vision loss or brain damage. We wanted our work to save families from going through that heartbreak."
According to the CDC, GBS is the leading cause of life-threatening infection in newborn infants. If a pregnant woman, who will generally have no symptoms herself, unknowingly passes the bacteria on during pregnancy, it can result in premature labor, stillbirth and miscarriage; or, GBS can pass to the baby during labor. The infant might appear healthy, then suddenly develop fever, lethargy and difficulty breathing. Meningitis, sepsis, pneumonia or even death may follow.
Approximately one in three women carry the easily transmitted GBS bacteria. The CDC estimates the number of GBS cases in newborns at 7,500 annually, though without a reliable record of data due to insufficient screening and non-reporting, the number of cases is probably much higher. A noninvasive, inexpensive test and simple I.V. antibiotic treatment can prevent nearly 90 percent of GBS tragedies.
It was this urgent need for prevention and screening that led Shelene and Chris Keith to create the Jesse Cause, and to push for GBS awareness around the world. When their message was brought before the CDC and organizations like ACOG and AAP, all were persuaded by irrefutable evidence from recent studies that making GBS testing a standard of prenatal care would save more lives than the current protocol.
"Yet, our work is far from over," declares Shelene Keith. "We need to distribute thousands of pamphlets into pregnancy-related medical centers nationwide, then worldwide, and continue to educate pregnant women to ask for this test until the new guidelines are really in place."
Again, The Jesse Cause Foundation along with the CDC, is sponsoring "The 2nd Annual July National Group B Strep Awareness Month." They are presently looking for corporate and private sponsors for this event.
A mom from Murfreeboro, TN: "My Emma Kate would be alive today, If only I had known about the devastations of GBS. The information in the pamphlet would have saved my baby!"
Berna and Stephan Arnold, California. "If I only had this pamphlet, my twins would be alive today."
Amberlee Grow, Santa Maria California." We could have prevented our daughter's late-onset GBS with this informative pamphlet. GBS is preventable let's get this information to every mom, so they don't have to go through what we had to!"
Chris and Shelene are seeking to distribute 100,000 pamphlets per month starting in June to the end of 2002. With the distribution help of Kiwanis International, and Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS.) Corporate and private sponsors will have a special "Thank You" and their logo on each pamphlet. These pamphlets will be distributed nationally to medical clinics and hospitals.
The The Jesse Cause Foundation can be reached at (805) 984-7933 or toll-free at (877) HALTGBS. E-mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit The Jesse Cause web site at www.thejessecause.org. Donations can be sent to The Jesse Cause, at 567 West Channel Islands Blvd., #235, Port Hueneme, CA 93041.